As human populations and developments expand, it is inevitable that interactions between wildlife and electrical infrastructure will increase. Such is the case in protected areas, where mammal electrocutions often occur as a result of damaged electrical infrastructure. In a previous study, a camera trap survey along a power line in the Kruger National Park (Kruger) revealed that large mammals [particularly Cape buffalo, Syncerus caffer, rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum and Diceros bicornis) and African elephant, Loxodonta africana] damaged wooden utility poles by rubbing or pushing against them. Such interactions can result in poles breaking, creating high electrocution risks to wildlife. In this study, we tested four mitigation measures (steel sleeve, VB Rhino, Grating box and Polefix industrial cast) for their effectiveness in reducing damaging contact between these four large mammals and wooden electrical poles. Camera traps were set up along the Foskor-Kruger 22 kV power line in the Kruger over 16 months to monitor wildlife interactions at experimentally treated (n = 14) and control (n = 8) utility poles. Direct contact between large mammals (buffalo: 64%, rhino: 23%, elephant: 11%) and poles made up 71% of pole–wildlife interactions. A cost– benefit analysis was undertaken to determine the most cost-effective mitigation measure. Our findings suggest that implementing mitigation measures can reduce wildlife-pole interactions and subsequently reduce the risk of wildlife electrocutions in protected areas. Based on both its effectiveness, advantages and cost, we recommend using the Grating box mitigation method to reduce large mammal damage to poles in the Kruger.
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Vol. 48 • No. 2