History

The Kalahari Research Centre (KRC) was established in 1993 on ranchland in the southern part of the South African Kalahari, close to the border of Botswana. In 2000 Tim Clutton-Brock, of Cambridge University, organised the funds to buy 3250 ha land including two farmhouses. The area was established as a reserve (the Kuruman River Reserve) owned by the Kalahari Research Trust, a non-profit-trust registered in South Africa. Over the last twenty years, the KRC has developed into a substantial research station that has accommodation for fifty scientists and assistants, providing unique opportunities for research, education and filming.

Ecological and behavioural research at the KRC has been productive. Two long-term studies (meerkats, Suricata suricatta, since 1993; pied babblers, Turdoides bicolor since 2003) have produced more than 200 publications in leading journals, with several publications in Nature, Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Recently, further projects have been established: six separate groups of ground squirrels have been habituated; leopard tortoises Geochelone pardalis, and several families of bat eared foxes Otocyon megalotis have been marked and followed; and temperature maintained animal facilities have been built to house up to thirty colonies of Damaraland mole-rats Fukomys damarensis. The five trustees of the KRT are leading scientists and the KRC and the KRT provide a base for fundamental research on physiology, genetics, population dynamics and behaviour under field conditions.

During the past twenty years, the long-term projects based at the KRC have hosted over 200 interns who have worked with the projects for a year. In addition, more than 30 MSc students, 20 PhD students and 20 post-docs have performed their field studies at KRC. Many of them have subsequently continued their academic career and gained lectureship positions. KRC has also been used by Zurich University for three field courses, and provided the opportunity for undergraduate students and gymnasium teachers to gain experience in field work.

The KRC maintains an extensive outreach system including visits by Centre staff to the local school and visits by different school classes to the reserve. In addition, it organises visits to the site through the Friends of the Kalahari Research Project programme, and provides access to film crews whose work has resulted in multiple programmes including the Meerkat Manor TV series, which has been translated into more than twenty different languages. BBC, National Geographic, Bayern TV and several other film crews frequently use the site for filming meerkats and the other species at KRC for the world wide broadcasted wildlife documentaries.

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