A Month with the Elephants

Elephants in South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park
Elephants in South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park
Photo by Erin Dowgwillo

So you want to save elephants? In fall 2009, Erin Dowgwillo helped do just that. Dowgwillo, a zookeeper at the Milwaukee County Zoo, studied elephants and black rhinos in South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park. From observing the park’s elephants at waterholes to analyzing elephant poop samples in a makeshift field office, Dowgwillo kept a photo diary of her trip. See her pictures in the photo slide show below (Zoological Society members can also read about Dowgwillo in the spring/summer issue of Alive magazine.)

Dowgwillo’s work is part of an ongoing research project led by Dr. Elizabeth Freeman, a scientist at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  For more on her work, and links to other resources, see below.

  •  This research summary on the Smithsonian National Zoo Web site talks about the challenges and the importance of breeding elephants in zoos.
  • If you’re curious about the science and methodology of Dr. Freeman’s study, see this for details and a bibliography
  • This blog entry by researchers at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago has another perspective on studying black rhinos in Addo.
  • Ever see a baby elephant romp with mom? Dowgwillo shared several elephant videos from her trip on the Zoological Society’s YouTube channel.

Slide show contributors: Julia Kolker and Erin Dowgwillo. All photos provided by Erin Dowgwillo unless otherwise noted.

Into the Field