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The quagga project aims to breed plains zebra that phenotypically resemble the extinct quagga (Equus quagga quagga), by selective breeding to aggregate desirable characteristics, particularly a reduced striping pattern. The purpose of this study was to produce a genetic selection index to improve stripe-pattern reduction, and hence to produce an efficient and objective selective breeding protocol, which will hopefully be of use in future selection experiments. From images of selectively bred zebras, striping ratios for three regions were calculated. Correlations of parent-offspring relationships resulted in narrow-sense heritabilities. Data from two regions (R1 and R3) were used to create an index to improve selection and reduce striping. The index I = 3.1875 (R1) 4.8134 (R3) and the response to selection using the index, R = 0.6047 i.
We analysed stable carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) in faeces of 11 African ungulate species from three South African savanna environments to determine whether this approach is sufficiently sensitive to record short-term seasonal diet changes in browsers (BR), mixed-feeders (IM), and grazers (GR). At monthly intervals, faecal δ13C revealed variations in proportions of C3 (browse) to C4 (grass) biomass consumed that were not detected by broader dry versus wet season comparisons, including subtle diet shifts amongst BR and GR. However, trends in faeces were influenced by changes in C3 and C4 plant isotope composition of up to 3‰. Nonetheless, faeces and plants showed strongly similar patterns of variation through the seasonal cycle, so that small diet shifts can be reliably inferred, provided that the variations in plants are controlled for. Faecal δ13C of BR may be further influenced by consumption of isotopically different plant parts such as foliage versus fruit and flowers, and GR faeces may reflect differential utilization of grass following different photosynthetic sub-pathways. Future studies will need to incorporate data that capture isotopic variations in herbivore food sources, and if this is achieved, the approach may well become adopted as a routine addition to traditional methods for assessing diet, habitat use, and habitat condition.
We analysed faecal stable carbon isotope ratios in eland (Taurotragus oryx) in the Suiker-bosrand Nature Reserve, Gauteng, South Africa, in order to determine the relative contributions of browsing and grazing to their diet. Plants with C3 photosynthetic pathways comprised 95% of eland diet in March (late wet season) and June (early dry season), indicating almost exclusive browsing during both these periods. Our results are qualitatively similar to several other studies of eland diet in savanna and semi-arid habitats in South Africa. Observations of eland feeding behaviour suggested that the small non-C3 diet component may not necessarily reflect grazing, but rather feeding on Aloe marlothii.
We investigated factors affecting sightability of oryx (Oryx gazella gazella) during fixed-wing aerial surveys in desert grass-shrubland habitat types to develop a sightability-adjusted population estimator to aid in precise population management. Sightability of oryx was affected by group size, activity, and vegetation type. We used logistic regression to model all possible combinations of the three significant variables, and compared models with a variety of fit and information-theoretic statistics as well as by relative performance. Because no model was superior to the others, we used relative performance among all models and parsimony to select the preferred model. Our preferred model included variables for social group size and three levels of group activity (bedded, standing, moving). This model estimated oryx population size as 3917 (3534–4297) and 3312 (2999–3593) for two annual surveys, and showed a deviance of −0.007 and −0.03 from the grand mean of all models for these surveys, respectively. Full confidence interval widths from complete surveys (100% of area covered) were 19.0% and 17.9% of mean population estimates, allowing for precise estimation and consequently management of the oryx population, although confidence interval widths will vary with group size and behaviour. Oryx surveys should be conducted during periods when group sizes are largest locally, which was the summer in New Mexico, to maximize sightability of oryx and thus minimize variation in population estimates due to sighting error.
GPS collars linked to the GSM (cellular phone) network open new opportunities for documenting the responses of animals to changing environmental conditions. These collars supply sequential location records according to a pre-set schedule, without any interference by an observer with animal movements. We report findings from a preliminary analysis of data from collars placed on two adjoining herds of sable antelope (Hippotragus niger) in the central region of the Kruger National Park. These collars functioned for 11.5 months and 15 months, respectively, routinely supplying GPS positions of both herds at 12 h (or shorter) intervals. From these data we derived diel displacement distances between locations 24 h apart, as well as diurnal and nocturnal (12 h) displacements. Annual home ranges of these herds covered 118 km2 and 65 km2, respectively. Diel displacements did not show any consistent distinction between short movements within foraging areas and long movements between foraging areas. Diel displacements increased over the course of the dry season, largely as a result of journeys to water every 3–4 days. Animals moved relatively more nocturnally during the hot months of the dry season than at other times of the year. Longer movements suggested higher energy expenditures and greater risks of predation in the late dry season.
A database of approximately 9000 trophy measurements of ungulates hunted in South Africa between 1993 and 2001 was analysed in order to detect monotonic trends in trophy quality over time. In a species-specific analysis, declines were found for impala (Aepyceros melampus), springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) and mountain reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula). In an area-specific analysis, a decline was found in the Northern Cape Province. Conversely, blesbok (Damaliscus dorcas phillipsi) (species-specific) and the Free State Province (area-specific) showed increases in trophy quality. As an economic indicator, the monitoring of trophy quality allows agencies to potentially evaluate the quality and sustainability of their ‘huntable’ ungulate resources.
The study compared plant and avian diversity and species composition between four habitats to review the potential implications of two distinct management practices on a forestry estate, namely to rehabilitate riparian zones to grasslands or woodlands as the two habitats that historically occurred on the property. The study habitats were Plantation (Pinus trees in riparian zone), Bushland (recently harvested), Grassland (cleared of broadleaf plants), and Woodland (control). At seven sampling sites per habitat, a vegetation assessment was conducted, while birds were caught with mist nests. Plant species richness increased from Plantation to Woodland, whereas most bird species and individuals were found in Bushland. Plant and bird species composition differed significantly between habitats. Bushland and Grassland birds were closely associated with exotic forbs. Grassland attracted birds with diverse habitat and nesting-site associations, and Woodland birds associated with woody plants. It is recommended that the majority of riparian zones be managed as grasslands, although the exact affect of the biennial summer burning and presence of exotic plants on birds needs to be investigated. To attract cavity-nesting birds to the Estate, some suitable riparian zones should be rehabilitated to Woodland by planting Ficus and Acacia trees, as these trees are the most abundant and frequently occurring in this habitat. Rather than manage avian diversity per se, the African stonechat in Grassland and lesser honeyguide in Woodland can be employed as indicators of the rehabilitation state of the riparian zones.
Details of kills made by lions on Shamwari Private Game Reserve, South Africa, were routinely recorded by staff for three years after reintroduction of the lions, and we used these data to establish the prey profile, prey selection and daily intake rates (kg/FEQ/day). The opportunistic nature of the observations of kills resulted in gaps in the records which we attempted to resolve by analysing both the complete data set and a subset of data in which we omitted kills that were made more than five days apart. The full data set (n = 360 kills) comprised 23 species over three years (1095 days) while the subset (n = 227 kills) comprised 16 species in 368 days. Prey preference (Jacobs' index) was calculated using both data sets and aerial game counts for species availability. Aerial game counts were used both with and without correction for differences in visibility. Prey profiles were very similar for the two data sets with the same species preferred (black wildebeest, ostrich, warthog) and avoided (springbok, impala, common duiker). Prey preferences were calculated separately for each year, and revealed a switch from a preference for blesbok to avoidance, and the reverse for warthog. There was no significant difference in the mean prey size using either data set (full data set,131.5 kg; subset of data,133.1 kg). The two data sets did generate very different daily intake rates, however, with higher values from the subset of data (9.3 kg/FEQ/day year 1) than the full data set (4.6 kg/FEQ/day in year 1). We conclude that kills located by drive vehicles on small ecotourism reserves can be used to establish prey profiles. Removing gaps in the kill lists will increase the accuracy of the profiles and is essential for calculation of kill rates and daily food consumption.
The views of visitors to national parks provide an important source of information to guide park planners and managers. A visitor questionnaire study was conducted in 2004 and 2005 in the Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa. A profile of the respondents, as well as records of their views on a number of park-related conservation and management issues, and of their observations of large and charismatic species (the ‘Big Five’) was compiled. The study clearly showed that national parks are important destinations for an African wildlife experience, along with other natural attractions that they have to offer. It also highlighted the scope for further visitor education, specifically aimed at improving the quality of their visits to the park. The relationship between elephant (Loxodonta africana) density and level of viewing success by visitors requires further investigation. Since the reintroduction of large predators, especially lion (Panthera leo), in the early 2000s, the daytime sighting rate of buffalo (Syncerus caffer) by visitors has increased markedly. Ongoing surveys, to monitor and expand on some of the aspects addressed in this study, are considered necessary in order to assist park staff to achieve conservation and management goals.
Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) are thought to be introduced aliens in KwaZulu-Natal, an area in which they flourish today. This perception was based on the lack of reference to sightings of giraffe in early colonial literature and the lack of giraffe remains in archaeological sites within KwaZulu-Natal. We have reviewed the literature and found no reliable reference to giraffe in early colonial writings and no reports of rock art featuring giraffe in the area. However, there are recent reports of the recovery of giraffe bones from the Middle Stone Age deposits at Sibudu Shelter, the Holocene hunter-gatherer deposits at Maqonqo Shelter and from the Early Iron Age agriculturist site of KwaGandaganda, all within KwaZulu-Natal. We argue that giraffe were present 1000 BP (date of most recent excavation evidencing giraffe remains), but had died out or been extirpated by c. 220 BP (date of written accounts). The demise of giraffe between 1000 and 220 BP may be linked to disease, climate change or anthropogenic causes. The finding of giraffe remains within KwaZulu-Natal raises the possibility that they should be considered as native to the area.