For the last 15 years, Robert Cheke has been conducting research on the infamous pest, the Red-billed Quelea bird Quelea quelea. Known as "Africa's feathered locust" it is renowned for destroying millet, sorghum and rice crops throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Following a succession of DFID-sponsored projects, for the reports), Robert has just concluded work on a major EU-sponsored project as part of the SADC/ICART/CRARF programme on environmental impacts of Quelea control.
A major consideration in all this work has been the birds' migration abilities (one ringed bird went from South Africa to the Democratic Republic of the Congo!) and predicting where and when they will breed was one task. This was achieved using satellite-derived data on rainfall and the forecasting system was handed over to and maintained by SADC up to April 2009 before being suspended, but it is hoped that they will re-start soon. This research and related work on desert locusts led to Robert being interviewed recently for an article putting the Quelea birds' movements within a general migration context.