Scott Y.S. Chui 崔驛選

Ph.D. Candidate

Researcher, Cetacea Research Institute

Email: scottc(AT)hku.hk

            syschui(AT)cetacea-institute.org

Academic Record
  • Ph.D. Candidate, The University of Hong Kong (2015 - present)

  • B.Sc. (Ecology and Biodiversity), The University of Hong Kong (2013)

Dr. Yolanda Pretorius, Southern African Wildlife College, South Africa

Dr. Mark Keith, University of Pretoria, South Africa 

Dr. Francesca Parrini, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Dr. Michelle Henley, Elephants Alive, South Africa  

Prof Wayne M. Getz, University of California, Berkeley, USA

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) live in one of the most complex social systems among mammals, and are dominant species of the savannah/bushveld ecosystem. Several previous studies, however, had shown their susceptibility to changes in societal structures due to primarily anthropogenic factors. Although these animals are in decline all over Africa, primarily due to poaching; in South Africa, parks and nature reserves are experiencing an increasing pressure from elephant over-population, which has led to proposals of introducing population control measures (e.g. contraception or translocation). However, introducing these management practices without detailed behavioural baseline data for subsequent monitoring could lead to unpredictable, and possibly irreversible long-term implications. My postgraduate research project investigates two elephant populations; one in Pilanesberg National Park (PNP), the first test-ground of elephant translocation in South Africa, and the other in Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) which is part of the largest bushveld ecosystem in South Africa; with aim to better understand the socio-behavioural and spatial ecology of African elephants, and ultimately contribute to informed management and conservation of this species.

 

The history of the elephant population in PNP is turbulent and rather unique, as the animals were reintroduced to the park in the 1980s as young orphans from various sources, including the survivors of culling operations in Kruger National Park. Coming from different social groups and populations, most of them never had any interactions prior to being artificially assembled in Pilanesberg. Furthermore, in the absence of mature adults, right from the onset the population was lacking the repositories of social and ecological knowledge that guide the daily lives and societal structures of undisturbed elephant populations. In years that followed, it became apparent that the traumatic past and distorted social structure had far reaching implications on the societal processes of the population and the behaviours of individuals, which in some cases turned highly abnormal. In my postgraduate research, with the application of individual photographic identification, I investigate the dynamics of social networks of the PNP’s elephants. Given a sufficiently thorough photo-coverage of each encountered group, the photo-ID technique provides the means for describing the social structure with a bottom-up approach, i.e. from basic dyadic relationships to general social structure, and gaining valuable insights into the structural foundations of the social organisation of Pilanesberg's elephants. This, I anticipate, will open a possibility to investigate the effects of the traumatic behavioural past of this elephant population, their disturbed social structures and diluted relatedness.

 

Located west of Kruger National Park (KNP), the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) is a fenceless bushveld system composed of multiple privately own reserves. In 1993, the APNR became part of the Greater Kruger National Park, one of the largest interconnected ecosystems in southern Africa. In collaboration with ‘Elephants Alive’, a local NGO, I use long-term satellite-linked tracking data to quantify and model elephant movement and habitat selection. With the application of time-linked Local Convex Hull (t-LoCoH) modelling technique and using long-term tracking data, utilisation maps with different behavioural features will be constructed, providing insights into elephant natural movement in resource-rich bushveld environment. Generalised linear mixed models will be used to perform Resource Selection Function (RSF) to identify key environmental determinants of habitat selection. From the management-applicable perspective, quantifying the spatio-behavioural pattern and key environmental determinants of elephant movements will provide crucial information for parks and reserves, and government authorities to manage and minimise potential human-elephant conflicts.

 

In general, my research project revolves around several management-applicable issues. Conceptually, however, this study goes beyond the applied behavioural science and is designed to broadly advance our understanding of elephant socio-behavioural complexity, their societal structures, behavioural adaptability, and the environmental determinants of their spatial dynamics. Methodologically, this project takes advantage of the photo-identification mark-recapture techniques that have been mastered in similar studies of marine mammals. Rooted in both fundamental and applied science, this research will contribute to the rapidly developing field of comparative behavioural ecology and to the advancement of on-the-ground management practices relevant to complex mammalian societies.   

Conferences

Chui SYS, Karczmarski L & Pretorius Y (2019). Socio-ecology of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Pilanesberg National Park. 16th Annual International Savanna Science Network Meeting, Skukuza, Kruger National Park, South Africa.  

 

Chui SYS, Karczmarski L, Parrini F, Getz WM, Keith M & Henley M (2019).  Seasonal patterns in spatio-behavioural dynamics of African elephants (Loxodonta africana).  16th Annual International Savanna Science Network Meeting, Skukuza, Kruger National Park, South Africa.  

Chui SYS, Karczmarski L, Parrini F & Henley M (2016). Socio-behavioural ecology of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the Associated Private Nature Reserves the Kruger National Park ecosystem, South Africa. 14th Annual International Savanna Science Network Meeting, Skukuza, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

 

Chui SYS, Chan SCY, Wong W-H, Tiongson AJC, Or CKM, Ho Y-W, Hueng S-L, Lee ATL, Kwok HW, Stokes G, Gailey G & Karczmarski L (2015). A case of failed rescue and animal suffering in Hong Kong: An example never to be followed. 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, San Francisco, USA.

 

Chui SYS & Karczmarski L (2014). A Proposal for a study of the effects of human provisioning and contraception on macaque behaviour in Hong Kong. 1st Workshop on Animal Social Evolution, Heishiging Nature Reserve, Guangzhou, Sun Yat-sen University, P.R. China.  

Relevant Experience
  • Visiting Researcher, Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management, University of California at Berkeley, California, USA (Nov – Dec 2018)​

  • Visiting Researcher, Centre for Wildlife Management, Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, South Africa (Feb – Aug 2018) 

  • Visiting Researcher, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa (Jan – Dec 2017)

  • Visiting Researcher, Elephants Alive, South Africa (Apr – May 2015; Mar – Aug 2016)

  • Volunteer Research Assistant, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Nepal (Feb 2013)

  • Cetacean Stranding Responses Team, Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong (Sep 2010 – Aug 2013)

  • Volunteer Research Assistant, Cetacean Ecology Lab, The Swire Institute of Marine Sciences, The University of Hong Kong (Jun 2011 – Jan 2012)

© Scott Chui

© Scott Chui

© Scott Chui

Dr. Leszek Karczmarski, The University of Hong Kong

Supervisor
Project Synopsis
Socio-behavioural dynamics and spatial ecology of African elephants (Loxodonta africana)
Research Collaborators

© Scott Chui

Scholarships and Awards
  • 2019:  Conference Travel Grant  -  The University of Hong Kong 

  • 2018:  Conference Travel Grant  -  The University of Hong Kong

  • 2015-2019:  Postgraduate Scholarship  -  The University of Hong Kong

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