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Staff Profile

Professor Russell Hill, BSc, MPhil, PhD

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Chair of the Board of Studies, Department of Anthropology
Head of Department, Department of Anthropology
Travel Approver, Department of Anthropology

Contact Professor Russell Hill


My main research interests are in the behavioural ecology of primates and other large mammals and in particular in understanding the decisions animals make about their social and reproductive strategies. In doing so I combine field studies with theoretical analyses based on modelling. I run the Primate & Predator Project based at the Lajuma Research Centre in the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa, and have previously managed other projects in South Africa based at De Hoop Nature Reserve and in the Kruger National Park. My postgraduate students have conducted projects across southern Africa, and increasingly our work is examining mammalian conservation and human-wildlife conflict from an interdiscplinary perspective. I also have interests in applying evolutionary principles to explore a number of different aspects of human behaviour, particularly in understanding the role of the colour red in human competitive interactions.

I am interested in supervising students in any of my research interests, including primate behaviour and ecology, predator-prey interactions and interdisciplinary approaches to conservation and human-wildlife conflict.

Primate & Predator Project

Protected areas are the cornerstone of local, regional, and global strategies for biodiversity conservation. As human populations continue to rise and human activities convert and degrade lowland habitats, mountainous regions are increasingly important to species conservation. Mountainous areas are often noted for high concentrations of endemic species of animals and plants, and thus represent an important focus for conservation research. Our study aims to understand the ecology of species living in a biodiversity hotspot in the mountains of South Africa and examines the threat of human activity to species conservation.

Our project is based at the Lajuma Research Centre within the Soutpansberg Mountain Range, an area recognized nationally as a centre of endemism and biodiversity. The mountains fall within the Vhembe UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and form part of the North-Eastern Escarpment Bio-region, an area highlighted by the South African National Biodiversity Institute as a priority for conservation research. Our study is addressing this need.

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Research Groups

Department of Anthropology

Research Interests

  • Primate Behaviour and Ecology
  • Predator-Prey Interactions
  • Felid Behaviour and Ecology
  • Conservation and Human-Wildlife Conflict

Teaching Areas

  • Anthropology Field Course: South Africa

    (80 hours/year.)

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

  • Hill, R.A. (2017). Dunbar, R.I.M. (Robin Ian MacDonald). In The International Encyclopaedia of Primatology. Fuentes, A. Chichester, UK Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Nowak, K., Hill, R.A., Wimberger, K. & le Roux, A. (2016). Risk-taking in samango monkeys in relation to human observers at two sites in South Africa. In Ethnoprimatology: Primate Conservation in the 21st Century. Waller, M. Springer. 301-314.
  • Maier, M.A., Hill, R.A., Elliot, A.J. & Barton, R.A. (2015). Color in achievement contexts in humans. In Handbook of color psychology. Elliot, A.J., Fairchild, M.D. & Franklin, A. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 568-584.
  • Hill, R.A., Sellers, W.I., Logan, B. & Zapala, J. (2012). An agent-based model of group decision-making in baboons. In Modelling Natural Action Selection. Seth, A., Prescott, T. & Bryson, J. Cambridge University Press. 454-476.
  • Wiedemann, D., Barton, R.A. & Hill, R.A. (2012). Evolutionary approaches to sport. In Applied Evolutionary Psychology. Roberts, S.C. Oxford University Press. 290-307.
  • Hill, R.A. (2008). Nonhuman primate approaches to landscapes. In Handbook of Landscape Archaeology. David, B. & Thomas, J. Walnut Creek, California: Left Coast Press, Inc. 95-101.
  • Hill, R.A. (2006). Predation risk and habitat use in chacma baboons (Papio hamadryas ursinus). In Primates and their predators. Gursky, S. & Nekaris K.A.I. New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 339-354.

Journal Article

  • Williams, K.S., Williams, S.T., Fitzgerald, L.E., Sheppard, E.C. & Hill, R.A. (2018). Brown hyaena and leopard diets on private land in the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa. African Journal of Ecology 56(4): 1021-1027.
  • Atickem, A., Simeneh, G., Bekele, A., Mekonnen, T., Sillero-Zubiri, C., Hill, R.A. & Stenseth, N.C. (2017). African wolf diet, predation on livestock and conflict in the Guassa Mountains of Ethiopia. African Journal of Ecology 55(4): 632-639.
  • Howlett, C. & Hill, R.A. (2017). Can zoo enclosures inform exclosure design for crop-raiding primates? A preliminary assessment. African Journal of Ecology 55(4): 727-730.
  • Pitman, R.T., Fattebert, J., Williams, S.T., Williams, K.S., Hill, R.A., Hunter, L.T.B., Robinson, H., Power, J., Swanepoel, L.H., Slotow, R. & Balme, G. (2017). Cats, connectivity and conservation: incorporating datasets and integrating scales for wildlife management. Journal of Applied Ecology 54(6): 1687-1698.
  • Chase Grey, J.N., Bell, S. & Hill, R.A. (2017). Leopard diets and landowner perceptions of human wildlife conflict in the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa. Journal for Nature Conservation 37: 56-65.
  • Williams, S.T., William, K.S., Lewis, B.P. & Hill, R.A. (2017). Population dynamics and threats to an apex predator outside protected areas: Implications for carnivore management. Royal Society Open Science 4(4): 161090.
  • Wimberger, K., Nowak, K. & Hill, R.A. (2017). Reliance on exotic plants by two groups of threatened samango monkeys, Cercopithecus albogularis labiatus, at their southern range limit. International Journal of Primatology 38(2): 151-171.
  • Nowak, K., Wimberger, K., Richards, S.A., Hill, R.A. & le Roux, A. (2017). Samango monkeys (Cercopithecus albogularis labiatus) manage risk in a highly seasonal, human-modified landscape in Amathole Mountains, South Africa. International Journal of Primatology 38(2): 194-206.
  • Pitman, R.T., Fattebert, J., Williams, S.T., Williams, K.S., Hill, R.A., Hunter, L.T.B., Slotow, R. & Balme, G.A. (2017). The conservation costs of game ranching. Conservation Letters 10(4): 402-412.
  • Williams, S.T., Williams, K.S., Joubert, C.J. & Hill, R.A. (2016). The impact of land reform on the status of large carnivores in Zimbabwe. PeerJ 4: e1537.
  • Nowak, K., Richards, S., le Roux, A. & Hill, R. A. (2016). The influence of live-capture on the risk perceptions of habituated samango monkeys. Journal of Mammalogy 97(5): 1461-1468.
  • Wiedemann, D., Burt, D.M., Hill, R.A. & Barton, R.A. (2015). Red clothing increases perceived dominance, aggression and anger. Biology Letters 11(5): 20150166.
  • Howlett, C., Setchell, J.M., Hill, R.A. & Barton, R.A. (2015). The 2D:4D digit ratio and social behaviour in wild female chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) in relation to dominance, aggression, interest in infants, affiliation and heritability. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 69(1): 61-74.
  • Constant, N.L., Bell, S. & Hill, R.A. (2015). The impacts, characterisation and management of human-leopard conflict in a multi-use land system in South Africa. Biodiversity and Conservation 24(12): 2967-2989.
  • Lawson, J.F., James, C., Jannson, A.-U.C., Koyama, N.F. & Hill, R.A. (2014). A comparison of heterosexual and homosexual mating preferences in personal advertisements. Evolution and Human Behavior 35(5): 408-414.
  • Coleman, B.T. & Hill, R.A. (2014). Biogeographic Variation in the Diet and Behaviour of Cercopithecus mitis. Folia Primatologica 85(5): 319-334.
  • Nowak, K., le Roux, A., Richards, S.A., Scheijen, C. & Hill, R.A. (2014). Human observers impact habituated samango monkeys’ perceived landscape of fear. Behavioral Ecology 25(5): 1199-1204.
  • Coleman, B.T. & Hill, R.A. (2014). Living in a landscape of fear: the impact of predation, resource availability and habitat structure on primate range use. Animal Behaviour 88: 165-173.
  • Chase Grey, J.N., Kent, V.T. & Hill, R.A. (2013). Evidence of a high density population of harvested leopards in a montane environment. PLOS ONE 8(12): e82832.
  • Kent, V.T. & Hill, R.A. (2013). The importance of farmland for the conservation of the brown hyaena Parahyaena brunnea. Oryx: The International Journal of Conservation 47(03): 431-440.
  • Smith, R.K., Ryan, E., Morley, E. & Hill, R.A. (2011). Resolving management conflicts: could agricultural land provide the answer for an endangered species in a habitat classified as a World Heritage Site? Environmental Conservation 38(3): 325-333.
  • Willems, E.P. & Hill, R.A. (2009). A critical assessment of two species distribution models: a case study of the vervet monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops). Journal of Biogeography 36(12): 2300-2312
  • Hill, R.A (2009). Is isolation the major genetic concern for endangered equids? Animal Conservation 12(6): 518-519
  • Willems, E.P. & Hill, R.A. (2009). Predator-specific landscapes of fear and resource distribution: effects on spatial range use. Ecology 90(2): 546–555.
  • Willems, E.P., Barton, R.A. & Hill, R.A. (2009). Remotely sensed productivity, home range selection and local range use by an omnivorous primate. Behavioral Ecology 20(5): 985-992.
  • Smith, R.K., Marais, A., Chadwick, P., Lloyd, P.H. & Hill, R.A. (2008). Monitoring and management of the endangered Cape mountain zebra Equus zebra zebra in the Western Cape, South Africa. African Journal of Ecology 46(2): 207-213.
  • Hill, R.A., Bentley, R.A. & Dunbar, R.I.M. (2008). Network scaling reveals consistent fractal pattern in hierarchical mammalian societies. Biology Letters 4(6): 748-751.
  • Atrill, M., Gresty, K., Hill R.A. & Barton, R.A. (2008). Red shirt colour is associated with long-term team success in English football. Journal of Sports Sciences 26(6): 577-582.
  • Little, A.C & Hill, R.A. (2007). Attribution to red suggests special role in dominance signalling. Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology 5: 87-94.
  • Sellers, W.I., Hill, R.A. & Logan B. (2007). Simulating group decision making in baboons using agent-based modelling. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London 362: 1699-1710.
  • Hill, R.A. (2006). Thermal constraints on activity scheduling and habitat choice in baboons. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 129(2): 242-249.
  • Zhou, W.X., Sornette, D., Hill, R.A. & Dunbar, R.I.M. (2005). Discrete hierarchical organization of social group sizes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 272(1561): 439-444.
  • Hill, R.A. & Barton, R.A. (2005). Red enhances human performance in contests. Nature 435(7040): 293.
  • Hill, R.A., Barrett L., Gaynor D., Weingrill T., Dixon P., Payne H. & Henzi S.P. (2003). Day length, latitude and behavioural (in)flexibility in baboons (Papio cynocephalus ursinus). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 53(5): 278-286.

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Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Primate behaviour: Ecology
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences: Conservation
  • Anthropology: Evolutionary psychology