Makgadikgadi zebra migration research

A PhD study by James Bradley, visit project website, supported by the Wilderness Safaris Wildlife Trust, the Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Foundation, Kalahari Kavango Safari Company and Desert and Delta Safaris. Supervised by Prof. Stephen Harris and Dr Chris Brooks.

A group of zebras walking in the water in the Makgadikgadi


The Makgadikgadi zebra migration research project was originally set up in 2001 by Dr Chris Brooks in response to a plan to fence the Makgadikgadi ecosystem, Botswana.

The position of the Makgadikgadi game fence, along the south-western boundary of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, coincides with the dry season range of the migratory zebra and wildebeest populations. During the dry season, environmental constraints on foraging behaviour are at their peak and wildlife within the Makgadikgadi is reliant on the waterholes situated near to the fence.

The project looked at the regulating factors responsible for limiting the zebra population and concluded that excessive competition for resources with cattle during the dry season excluded zebra and wildebeest from grazing resources close to the limited number of waterholes along the Boteti River.

Since its completion in 2004, there has been limited research conducted to assess the impact of the game fence. Therefore, the overall aim of this project is to determine the ecological impact of the game fence and provide valuable information to the Department of Wildlife that can be used to assist in the long-term management of the National Park.

Principal findings from the first phase of the project


Two zebras drinking

The project

The project will gather data in the field during the dry season over a three-year period and will form part of a PhD research project (University of Bristol). The project will use GPS collars in order to track zebra and collect spatial data on zebra movement patterns. Grass will be sampled across the study region to assess the quantity and quality of grazing resources available to the zebra population.

The fence provides the potential for local communities to benefit from the proximity of the migration, without suffering from the consequences of human-wildlife conflict. The project will work with local communities to assess the impact of the fence on their livelihoods and their attitudes towards wildlife.

Data collected during this project will be used to aid the long-term conservation of the migratory zebra and wildebeest populations and the Makgadikgadi ecosystem.

Visit zebra migration project website.


The Makgadikgadi Zebra Research Project is supported by the Wilderness Safaris Wildlife Trust and the Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Foundation. Ten GPS collars have been provided by the University of Botswana for use by the project. Logistical support within Botswana is generously provided by Kalahari Kavango Safari Company and Desert and Delta Safaris.

Volunteer positions are available for this project.

Contact details

James Bradley
Mammal Research Unit
School of Biological Sciences
University of Bristol
Woodland Road
Bristol BS8 1UG, U.K.

Telephone: 0117 9287593
Telephone (Botswana): +267 721 53008
Email: James Bradley