Collecting Poop to Save a National Park

waterbuck sampling

CLICK HERE TO POST QUESTIONS FOR JEN GUYTON, THE SCIENTIST FEATURED IN THIS VIDEO, AND SHE WILL ANSWER THEM LIVE ON YOUTUBE ON TUESDAY, JANUARY 5 AT 12:00PM EST.

The civil war in Mozambique ended more than 20 years ago, but many victims have yet to recover. During the 15-year war, large wildlife such as lions, elephants, and hippos in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park declined by more than 90 percent. “The rebel soldiers were poaching animals to eat them, but they were also hunting animals in order to trade their parts for weapons,” explains wildlife ecologist and National Geographic Young Explorer Jen Guyton.

While most wildlife in Gorongosa has fought back to about ten percent of their prewar populations, one animal in particular has made a rather impressive comeback. Waterbuck numbers have reached almost 34,000 even though there were only 3,500 of them when the war started.

Guyton is studying waterbuck in Gorongosa to reveal the secrets behind their success and hoping to shed light on how park managers can help other species recover, too. Guyton says, “We’re not really sure why waterbuck are so abundant now. They have this sort of greasy secretion that smells a little bit weird, and they supposedly taste really bad, so supposedly predators don’t really like them.”

While the dislike for waterbuck among animal predators remains just a theory, Guyton says there is evidence to support humans’ distaste for the antelope. “It seems that local people, poachers especially, don’t really like to eat waterbuck because of their musky smell.”

Jen Guyton’s team studies waterbuck to help restore Gorongosa National Park.

By peeking into the everyday life of waterbuck, Guyton hopes to learn more about why the species is thriving. “We’ve teamed up with the National Geographic Crittercam team to put GPS collars on waterbuck. The cool thing about —> Read More

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