Notes to Independent Researchers

Independent researchers are considered all people working at the Kalahari Research Centre (KRC) that carry out research, but are not directly employed by the Kalahari Meerkat Project. This includes MSc and PhD students, Post docs and other researchers. The first part of these notes applies to all independent researchers on KRC, while the second part applies only to independents working on the meerkat groups.


General logistics to work at the KRC

Research permission to work on KRC

Independent researchers need to obtain permission to carry out research on the KRC from the Kalahari Research Trust. Research permission will not be given for more than three years. Once permission has been confirmed by Cambridge, please inform the field leader of the Meerkat Project of your expected dates in good time.


– All independent researchers and their assistants must read and follow the KRC safety guidelines and leave a signed copy of them with the field leader.
– All independents work on the KRC at their own risk and neither the Kalahari Research Trust or the Kalahari Meerkat Project or KRC are responsible for their safety. Independents are also responsible for the safety of any assistants they employ.
– All independent researchers must fill in a risk assessment form for themselves and any assistants and leave a signed copy with the field leader.
– If emergencies occur which involve a trip or trips to town on behalf of an independent with Kalahari Meerkat Project vehicles they will be charged ZAR 1500 per return trip per vehicle.
– Independents should ask the field leader for guidance on safety issues.


– All independent researchers and their assistants working on the KRC must have adequate health insurance and must register the details of this with the field leader.
– In the event of an accident to independents or their assistants, independents will be responsible for all costs.

Facility / Research Fees

The habituation of animal groups and its maintenance has high running costs. The Meerkat and Babbler Project therefore charge independent workers’ research fees to be able to collect data on the habituated groups, and for the access to long-term data. The payment of these research fees should be arranged with the relevant project leaders. Project leaders should inform Tim Clutton-Brock of the fees they propose to charge and the conditions they place on independents.

Staffing / Taking on assistants

– If independents need to employ assistants, this must be cleared with Cambridge and organised in advance with the field leader.
– People employing assistants are responsible for organizing all necessary arrangements before they arrive.
– All assistants working on the KRC will be requested to sign an agreement concerning working conditions on the reserve.
– Any volunteers employed by Cambridge-based independents must be added to the Departmental Administrator’s insurance list (and removed when they leave). Independents are responsible for organizing these themselves.
– Assistants should not be left with KRC when the independent they are working for is away unless specific permission has been given by the field leader.
– Pay arrangements with assistants must be agreed with the field leader to avoid this conflicting with pay arrangements established with other researchers.

Arrivals and Departures

– Independents must organise their accommodation in advance with the field leader of the KRC, and should arrange their own travel to and from the farm, as well as that of any assistants.
– Independents storing equipment or anything else at KRC while away, should leave this in named boxes at specific places assigned by the field leader. KRC does not take any responsibility for fire, water or any other damages, nor in case of the disappearance of the stored boxes or any of its content.
– Independents leaving a car at KRC while away, should disconnet the battery and leave the key with the field leader (or another person on the reserve to be able to move the car, if necessary). KRC does not take any responsibility for any damages or theft of the car.


– All independent researchers should organize their own transport in the field and are likely to need their own 4×4. The vehicle must be adequately insured and licensed and should be kept in good running order.
– There is a maximum speed limit of 30 kph on the reserve. Maximum speed limit on the main road along the study populations is 60 kph. On trips outside the research area, maximum limits of 80 kph on dust roads, and 100 kph on tar roads are recommended.


The KRC buys diesel from Van Zylsrus, and independent researchers can fill up their car from the tank at the study site. Please arrange to pay monthly to the Project. Independents with petrol vehicles should arrange their own fuel.


All researchers working on the reserve must carry a VHF radio. Independent researchers can buy one yourself (cost about 3000 ZAR each), or rent it from the KRC at ZAR 100 / month when they are available.


– Independent researchers using KRC accommodation (and any assistants) pay a daily charge of ZAR 50 + VAT to the Kalahari Research Trust (which includes a ZAR 10 contribution to general maintenance of the reserve). Independents are responsible for paying the fees of their assistants.
– There is limited space available, so let the field leader know in advance what accommodation you need and the period for which you will need it.
– Camping is not permitted.
– Independents working on the pied babbler project, please make their arrangements via Mandy Ridley.


Members of the Kalahari Meerkat Project buy food, cook and eat communally. Independent researchers can be part of the system. The project organises one shopping trip per month.

Telephone, fax, email, internet

Telephone, fax, email and internet connection are available on Rus and Vrede and Gannavlakte sites. Independent researchers will be charged for all your connections monthly plus a contribution to running costs. Whenever possible, please use phone cards (which can be bought from the KRC).

Fire fighting

In case of a fire all the people on the surrounding farms have agreed to help each other. This includes all the people working on KRC, including independent researchers.

Neighbouring farmers

KRC relies on maintaining a good relationship with the farmers and the people in the village. If you want to contact one of the farmers for advice or help, please do so through the field leader.

Conservation Authority permits

Unless the work of independent researchers falls within the remit of the Kalahari Meerkat Project, independent researchers must organise permission for their work from Northern Cape Conservation Authority (address: Northern Cape Nature Conservation, Head Office Private Bag X6102, 8300 Kimberley, SA, Tel:  +27 (0) 53 8074800, Fax: +27 (0) 832 21 43, email:, speak with Marietjie.

Pretoria permits (Ethical Committee)

Independent researchers that are involved in any form of manipulation must obtain clearance for their work from the Ethical Committee of Pretoria University. Send the Ethical Committee an outline of your research and obtain their clearance for your work (address: Prof Elissa Cameron, Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, 0002 Pretoria, South Africa).

Permission to work on neighboring farms

Independents working on neighboring farms must obtain permission from the owner of the farm involved. Please do this through the field leader.


The success of longterm ecological and behavioural studies depends on the maintenance and accessibility of accurate data on individual life history and population demography. The KRC asks that projects collecting life history and demographic data maintain and leave a copy of this with the field leader. In order to ensure that the data they have collected is accessible to subsequent researchers on the same species.


Independent researchers should send a reprint (and if available a pdf file) of all papers and theses when published to Tim Clutton-Brock in Cambridge, and also to the field leader of the Kalahari Meerkat Project.

Film teams / professional photographers

Permission for any teams filming on the KRC or for visits by professional photographers or journalists must be obtained by Tim Clutton-Brock. Click here for more information.

Personal visitors

– Any visitors you intend to have should be passed to the field leader at least a week in advance.
– When you have visitors, please be sensitive to the rest of the members staying at the study site.
– Do not drop casual invitations to visit the reserve.
– Independents will be responsible for their accommodation.
– Please pay accommodation and communal charges for your visitors or arrange for them to do so. – Visitors are allowed to take pictures, but not to sell them.


Logistics for field work on the meerkats

Visit of Meerkat groups / Rota

– Visits to meerkat groups are arranged by the field leader who produces a weekly ‘rota’. Independents working on the meerkats must organize with him/her which groups they would like to visit and on what days, and there may be overlap with other people. Please inform the project leader on a Friday afternoon of your plans for the following week (Sunday PM to Sunday AM)
– Independents will be expected to contribute to long-term project data on weights, babysitters, etc.

Experiments / catching / handling of meerkats

All experiments (as well as all catching or handling of meerkats) have to be cleared with Tim Clutton-Brock and the field leader in advance. Please send Tim Clutton-Brock an outline of proposed procedures using the attached form.

Use of volunteers and other staff

– Any use of Kalahari Meerkat Project volunteers must be arranged with Cambridge and the field leader of the project in advance.
– Independents may arrange for project staff to assist them out of working hours and should pay them directly for this.
– The Kalahari Meerkat Project may not be held responsible for work undertaken on behalf of independent students by any persons.

Field equipment

Independent researchers should organize their own field equipment (including radio tracking gear, scales, GPS, handheld dataloggers, 2-way radios) or organize with the leader of the Kalahari Meerkat Project in advance to borrow what equipment they need to borrow from the project. They will be charged a monthly rental for the latter.


Independent researchers are responsible for their own consumables and should arrange their own eggs (for experiments), batteries and stationary. The Kalahari Meerkat Project provides eggs, hair dye and water feeders to maintain the research on the meerkats.


Independent researchers should provide their own computers, and those of their assistants.


Independent researchers working on the meerkats should send a copy of all manuscripts to Tim Clutton-Brock at Cambridge before submission. For published papers and theses see in previous section for all independent researchers.

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