The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve is proud to support research projects and programmes.


University of Pretoria

Andrea Webster

Mammal Research Institute University of Pretoria

Non-invasive assessment of trace elements to evaluate African savannah ecosystem health.

North West University

Dr Frances Siebert

North-West University

The contribution of forbs to the dietary composition of wild herbivores using DNA metabarcoding

University of KwaZulu Natal

Dr Lindy Thompson

University of Kwa-Zulu Natal / Endangered Wildlife Trust

Ecology of the Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus, in the Kruger –to- Canyons Biosphere Reserve

Nelson Mandela University

Amore Robinson

Nelson Mandela University

The influence of water dependency on the spatial ecology of large mammalian herbivores on the paleo-Agulhus plain

North West University

Dr Frances Siebert and Dr Aline Bombo

North-West University

The effect of fire frequency on the size and density of bud banks and belowground organs in semi-arid South African Savanna


The Southern Ground-Hornbill Research Programme, is run by the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, and began in 2000 with the aim of creating a better understanding of the breeding ecology and home range use of this cooperative breeding species.

During the breeding season, from October to March, the Programme monitors all 58 natural and artificial nests in the Timbavati, Thornybush, Klaserie and Umbabat to determine the success of each breeding attempt. This is done to determine what makes certain groups more successful at breeding than others. During this season we also harvest second-hatched chicks which are hand-reared for the wild-release programmes run by the Mabula Ground-Hornbill Project.

The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Southern Ground Hornbills are the largest cooperatively breeding bird in the world. They are faunivorous, terrestrial living birds which are classified as vulnerable throughout their range, and have suffered major population declines in South Africa. Efforts to conserve the species are predominantly based around habitat preservation and reintroduction programmes. While these programmes have had success, understanding the social dynamics which govern cooperation within the species can play a vital role and significantly improve the conservation of these birds. Researching the social structures and how environmental factors may influence their reproduction and territory defense will provide unexplored insights into the population dynamics of the species through a changing climate. 

The aim of this study is to investigate the social structure of Southern Ground Hornbills, and to understand how individual group members contribute to two vital group functions: territory defense and reproduction, two poorly understood topics.

Should you wish to know more please contact the Programme team by email: 

Follow their progress, these birds need you more than ever!

Check out our guest blog: "The booming call of ground hornbills. What are they saying?"


The Timbavati Leopard Project is a research project based on broad co-operation between the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, researchers and private partners. The leopard is currently listed as a “near threatened” species on the IUCN Redlist. However, it is considered likely that the species will soon qualify for a “vulnerable” status. It is therefore important to address the many threats posed to the species as part of any comprehensive management strategy.

As an effort to cast light on the current status of this elusive and secretive cat, we wish to estimate the leopard population, occupancy and space use within the TPNR.

The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Combined with genetic and behavioural profiling, we intend to add variables to the study that will increase the understanding of the species and directly address many of the threats against the species. Modeling the importance of behaviour in the context of spatial use and habituation remains very relevant and represents a new research approach for leopards.

This might very well have implications for big-picture leopard management planning across its range. The project is completely non-invasive to the animals and will be based on both still shots and video footage from camera traps throughout the reserve.

The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve has partnered with Panthera, the only organisation in the world devoted exclusively to the conservation of the world’s 38 wild cat species and their ecosystems.


The vulture nest monitoring project is done in collaboration with the Endangered Wildlife Trust of South Africa. The project has two main aims. The first aim is to monitor permanent marked nests in terms of yearly use and secondly, to monitor elephant impact on trees used by vultures.

The Timbavati has the largest vulture nesting colony in the APNR. Together with the management of vegetation and elephants it is imperative to monitor vulture nest numbers as elephants’ impact on these trees. Vulture chicks are marked, and visitors, guides and staff are requested to record their location.

Some marked birds have been found in KwaZulu-Natal and the Kalahari regions!

The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

The Timbavati has a scientifically formulated impala culling programme as well as limited professional hunting activity. By making a small portion of carcasses from these activities available to vultures, maybe the birds could be “persuaded” to stay in protected areas thereby keeping them safe? Vultures range over huge areas looking for food. Unfortunately, this ranging behaviour often takes them out of protected areas exposing them to hostile and often fatal environments.

Read more on our “Timbavati and EWT vulture feeding programme gets off the ground” blog.


Elephants Alive, formally known as Save the Elephants – South Africa, has had a long-standing relationship with Timbavati Private Nature Reserve.

For almost 25 years, Elephants Alive (EA) has been studying African Elephants, to ensure their survival, and to promote harmony with humans. EA work in the Greater Kruger region, monitoring free-roaming elephants across South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. EA have collared >100 elephants and created a database of >2,000 individual elephants – to understand their movements and population dynamics, and now to identify poaching hotspots.

EA research prioritizes male elephants, as much less is known about bulls. Their research is helping us understand the ecological role of bulls as ecosystem engineers and to an extent investigate their social role as mentors to younger bulls; their economic importance to the hunting sector; and as targets for poachers.

Another addition to their great work, Elephants Alive has produced for the members and lodge owners of the Timbavati, an Elephants ID Guide detailing the unique characteristics and stories of 30 iconic elephants that roam freely across the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR). To buy a copy contact


Here are some of their long-term research project which assists the TPNR in some of their management decisions:

  1. Identifying individual elephants to study population dynamics.
  2. Tracking elephants using advanced technology (GPS-satellite and GPS/GMS collars) to understand habitat use.
  3. Monitoring individual trees over time to establish rates of change in important landscape features.
  4. Experiment with various methods of alleviating elephant tree impact and provide scientific knowledge to all stakeholders.
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Elephants Alive Community Outreach:

Elephants Alive believes that, to ensure conservation success, and the long-term preservation of free-ranging elephants, it is crucial to empower, inform and involve local impoverished communities. They run their outreach programs with the local communities and government schools.

Their outlook and approach of connecting communities to conservation complements that of the Timbavati Foundation. Through education, the love and passion to want to protect wildlife is developed and grown.

The Wise meeting the Wise - c. Rivoni Ronald Mkansi

Renowned Research:

Elephants Alive believes in providing science-based information and creating awareness of the plight of elephants through education, advocacy and partnership building, both locally and internationally.
Our research is providing fundamental inputs for elephant management and protection, community-based resource management and tourist interactions. To read their scientific articles, see the link.

The Director of Elephants Alive, Dr. Michelle Henley, won the prestigious SANParks Kudu Award for Conservation in 2019 and was named one of “the ten most inspiring women in South Africa” in 2017.

Read our Elephants Alive - Guest Blog

CEO Dr Michelle Henley collaring Classic - LR - c. Mike Kendrick