Savanna and Arid Research Unit
Formal in-house scientific research in SANParks has its roots in Kruger National Park (KNP) where the first research station with staff was established in the 1950s. Amalgamation of the Skukuza- and Kimberley-based Scientific Services groups in 2006 resulted in the formation of the Savanna & Arid Research Unit within Scientific Services. This, together with substantial ecosystem research support grant funding from the AW Mellon Foundation, resulted in significant expansion of research expertise and support across the savanna, arid and grassland parks.
Today the Savanna and Arid Research Unit is responsible for managing research and monitoring across several national parks, namely Addo Elephant, Golden Gate Highlands, Mapungubwe, Marakele, Kruger, Kalahari Gemsbok, Richtersveld, Augrabies Falls, Mokala, Mountain Zebra, Karoo and Camdeboo NPs. The different biomes and unique social settings of each park have major influences on how these highly diverse set of parks are managed. Studying the complexities of these socio-ecological systems and providing science-based advice to park managers; managing the interface between park management and scientists; and advising on reducing the impact of the constantly changing socio-ecological environment, are the core functions of this unit. These issues are addressed by the different programmes such as Systems Ecology, Knowledge Support, Park Interface and Restoration Ecology. Our staff complement includes 14 scientists and science managers, three regional ecologists, 14 specialist technicians, biotechnicians and research facilitation managers, three administrative and 21 general support personnel (game guards, hut attendants, supervisors and general workers).
Currently there are offices and/or research support facilities in Skukuza, Phalaborwa and Shingwedzi in Kruger NP; Kimberley, Knysna (servicing Addo Elephant, Mountain Zebra, Camdeboo and Karoo NPs) and smaller park-based satellite offices in Marakele, Kalahari Gemsbok and Addo Elephant NPs. Facilities for visiting researchers are available in KNP (research camps and accommodation in Skukuza, Shingwedzi, Phalaborwa), at Coerney in Addo Elephant NP and at Twee Rivieren in the Kalahari Gemsbok NP. This has greatly enhanced our ability to stimulate research interest and grow the nature and extent of research collaborations with numerous and diverse local and international academic and scientific research partners.
Scientific Services Savanna & Arid Research Unit offices: Kimberley, Phalaborwa and Skukuza.