Anthropology and Conservation News Summary – September

Extinction Rebellion protesters gathered around a pink boat emblazoned with the slogan 'Tell the truth'
  "Extinction Rebellion protest" by Suzanne Morris from Pixabay.

September has seen a return to campus for some and the decision to stay and complete their studies from the security of their own home for others. With the University now back up and running, it has been an incredibly busy month. We have welcomed new students to our community and enjoyed seeing old friends. However, despite how hectic the first month back can be, our staff and students have still been keeping active with things for us to report on. Here’s a summary of what we’ve been up to:

School recognised as top ten place to study Anthropology

A fantastic piece of news we received this month, although it didn’t surprise us, was that the School of Anthropology and Conservation has been recognised by the Guardian as one of the top 10 places to study Anthropology at in the UK! We attribute this to the incredible teaching by our academics who are world-renowned researchers, ensuring that our students are learning the most current topics in their studies. Furthermore, we have a wide range of facilities and fieldtrips that allow our students hands-on experience in their chosen fields.

Academic News

Lecturer in Conservation Science and School Sustainability Lead, Dr Charlie Gardner, was quoted at length in The Independent discussing the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE Bill), of which Charlie is a contributor. Dr Gardner commented on the importance of the CEE Bill and having the climate crisis enshrined in law. With 46% of the UK’s total emissions being emitted overseas, Charlie argues that, without the CEE Bill, there is little incentive to reduce those emissions.

Professor Keith Somerville, a conservationist at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), provided expert commentary on the intriguing but alarming deaths of elephants in Zimbabwe, and the wider Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, as the cause of death is still unknown. There have been a number of elephant deaths in this area and, whilst many causes have been ruled out, the source has not been found. There is cause for concern that the deaths may be caused by a naturally occurring toxin but, if this is the case, it could potentially mean that the cause of death is never proven due to the difficulty of finding samples.

Baby elephant at Lake Kariba, Siavonga, Zimbabwe
Baby elephant at Lake Kariba, Siavonga, Zimbabwe (Unsplash)

Dr Maria Voigt, Postdoctoral Research Associate at DICE, was interviewed live by Channel News Asia to discuss the rising levels of deforestation due to the coronavirus pandemic. She responded to questions regarding the issues, commenting that there are various causes for the rise, ranging from a lack of focus on deforestation, loss of income causing people to turn to illegal action and a weakening of environmental legislation. Due to unemployment levels caused by the virus and other disasters, Dr Voigt fears that sustainability will be less of a goal for government and companies, and pollution will increase.

Senior Lecturer in Conservation Science, Dr Joseph William Bull, was interviewed for an article published on the Geographical website, discussing the topic of offsetting damage to biodiversity and whether or not it is successful. Dr Bull is working alongside a team of researcher to compile a new Global Inventory of Biodiversity Offset Policies (GIBOP). Offsets are a controversial policy due to the concern that you cannot effectively replace what you destroy elsewhere, and that locals who rely on that biodiversity for their livelihood will not usually be considered. Dr Bull maintains that policies that take into consideration, and balance, the social, economic and ecological values will be crucial, and believes that these policies will be hugely influential in the future.

Dr Simon Black, Lecturer in Conservation Science, was interviewed about the possibility of re-introducing Barbary lions to North Africa. Dr Black gave background to the Barbary lions and explained that he felt they may have gone extinct in the wild later than is often thought. When it comes to re-introduction, Dr Black does believe that there is land that would be suitable for the lions, but there would need to be considerable effort to sustain the levels of wild prey species, most of which are also endangered. Thought should also be given to human-wildlife interaction, as the lions could prey on livestock. Therefore, Simon concluded that a Barbary lion re-introduction would need to be a part of a wider landscape restoration project in the region.

Barbary Lions at Port Lympne wildlife park, Kent
Barbary Lions at Port Lympne wildlife park, Kent (The Aspinall Foundation)

Reader in Conservation and Primate Behaviour, Dr Tatyana Humle, has recently led a research team examining the West African wildmeat trade. Despite there being a religious taboo surrounding the killing of monkeys and wild pigs, these species are increasingly being killed for both crop protection and economic gain. Dr Humle commented that “there is wider scope to investigate and improve the balance between local farmers’ livelihoods and biodiversity conservation”.

Student News

The Women in Conservation Canterbury Network (WCCN), comprising many staff and students from DICE, have created a video to celebrate their successes. The WCCN was formed in April 2019 and their mission is “to advance inclusivity and gender equality in conservation”. They have held a number of events which included workshops and mental health walks. They also advised upon the Procedural Guide for Preventing and Dealing with Behavioural Misconduct during academic activities in a non-University setting. As the group embarks upon their second year, they intend to continue the fantastic work they have been doing.

Members of the Women in Conservation Canterbury Network in the foyer of the School of Anthropology and Conservation
Members of the Women in Conservation Canterbury Network in the foyer of the School of Anthropology and Conservation

The University of Kent’s Conservation Society wrote an article to introduce themselves and outline what they have planned for the year. They intend to collaborate with a variety of other societies to spread their ethos of conservation and help increase awareness and participation. Furthermore, they will schedule regular  debates and socials! Be sure to head to their social media to see what they are up to.


We had our Welcome Weeks this September, which was filled with lots of important events for our new students to meet their academics and peers and get them up and running on all Kent systems. The new undergraduate students had a range of events that were both virtual and in person where safety measures allowed. They were introduced to their individual programmes online and had a session with the wonderful student support team for an informal Q&A. The new postgraduate students also had the chance to meet their programme convenors online and were invited to take part in a virtual ‘welcome drinks’, allowing them to meet their cohort and academic advisers in a more relaxed, social setting.

The Annual Kent-Kew Distinguished Ethnobotanical Lecture was announced! It is taking place virtually on Tuesday, 13th October at 17:00 and is free to attend. The benefit to the event being virtual is that now it is a lot more accessible to a wider audience, so make sure not to miss it! Dr Ina Vandebroek, from The New York Botanical Garden, is this year’s speaker and will explore the co-mobility of humans and plants in the Caribbean.

Ina Vandebroek amidst foliage
Dr Ina Vandebroek

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