Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

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Kruger S.,Ezemvelo KwaZulu Natal Wildlife | Kruger S.,University of Cape Town | Amar A.,University of Cape Town
Bird Study | Year: 2017

Capsule: Fledglings progressively increase their home range size and ranging behaviour as they age. Aims: To examine the home range size and ranging behaviour of Bearded Vulture fledglings during the post-fledging dependence period and determine the onset of natal dispersal. Methods: Post-fledging movements of three individuals were investigated in southern Africa using global positioning system (GPS) satellite telemetry which enabled home range sizes and distances travelled from the nest to be calculated. Results: Fledglings increased their home range size from an average of 0.4–10 999 km2 (100% Minimum Convex Polygons) and 9.13–11 466 km2 (fixed 95% kernels) within the first six months post fledging. They also increased home range use as they aged with maximum daily distances travelled from the nest occurring between 98 and 136 days post fledging (when fledglings were aged between 222 and 262 days), after which time they dispersed from their natal area. Distances between fixes were highest during the dispersal period. Conclusion: GPS satellite telemetry allows us to accurately demonstrate how fledglings progressively increase and use their home ranges as they age and undertake pre-dispersive exploratory flights. Results confirm the notion that juveniles disperse at the onset of the following breeding season and suggest that dispersal occurs earlier in the southern hemisphere. © 2017 British Trust for Ornithology


Di Minin E.,University of Kent | Di Minin E.,University of Helsinki | Macmillan D.C.,University of Kent | Goodman P.S.,Ezemvelo KwaZulu Natal Wildlife | And 3 more authors.
Conservation Biology | Year: 2013

The allocation of land to biological diversity conservation competes with other land uses and the needs of society for development, food, and extraction of natural resources. Trade-offs between biological diversity conservation and alternative land uses are unavoidable, given the realities of limited conservation resources and the competing demands of society. We developed a conservation-planning assessment for the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, which forms the central component of the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany biological diversity hotspot. Our objective was to enhance biological diversity protection while promoting sustainable development and providing spatial guidance in the resolution of potential policy conflicts over priority areas for conservation at risk of transformation. The conservation-planning assessment combined spatial-distribution models for 646 conservation features, spatial economic-return models for 28 alternative land uses, and spatial maps for 4 threats. Nature-based tourism businesses were competitive with other land uses and could provide revenues of >US$60 million/year to local stakeholders and simultaneously help meeting conservation goals for almost half the conservation features in the planning region. Accounting for opportunity costs substantially decreased conflicts between biological diversity, agricultural use, commercial forestry, and mining. Accounting for economic benefits arising from conservation and reducing potential policy conflicts with alternative plans for development can provide opportunities for successful strategies that combine conservation and sustainable development and facilitate conservation action. © 2013 Society for Conservation Biology.


Di Minin E.,University of Kent | Di Minin E.,University of Helsinki | Hunter L.T.B.,Panthera | Hunter L.T.B.,University of KwaZulu - Natal | And 5 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

The ideal conservation planning approach would enable decision-makers to use population viability analysis to assess the effects of management strategies and threats on all species at the landscape level. However, the lack of high-quality data derived from long-term studies, and uncertainty in model parameters and/or structure, often limit the use of population models to only a few species of conservation concern. We used spatially explicit metapopulation models in conjunction with multi-criteria decision analysis to assess how species-specific threats and management interventions would affect the persistence of African wild dog, black rhino, cheetah, elephant, leopard and lion, under six reserve scenarios, thereby providing the basis for deciding on a best course of conservation action in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, which forms the central component of the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany biodiversity hotspot. Overall, the results suggest that current strategies of managing populations within individual, small, fenced reserves are unlikely to enhance metapopulation persistence should catastrophic events affect populations in the future. Creating larger and better-connected protected areas would ensure that threats can be better mitigated in the future for both African wild dog and leopard, which can disperse naturally, and black rhino, cheetah, elephant, and lion, which are constrained by electric fences but can be managed using translocation. The importance of both size and connectivity should inform endangered megafauna conservation and management, especially in the context of restoration efforts in increasingly human-dominated landscapes. © 2013 Di Minin et al.


O'Connor T.G.,University of Witwatersrand | O'Connor T.G.,South African Environmental Observation Network | Mulqueeny C.M.,University of Witwatersrand | Goodman P.S.,Ezemvelo KwaZulu Natal Wildlife
International Journal of Wildland Fire | Year: 2011

Fire pattern is predicted to vary across an African savanna in accordance with spatial variation in rainfall through its effects on fuel production, vegetation type (on account of differences in fuel load and in flammability), and distribution of herbivores (because of their effects on fuel load). These predictions were examined for the 23651-ha Mkuzi Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, based on a 37-year data set. Fire return period varied from no occurrence to a fire every 1.76 years. Approximately 75% of the reserve experienced a fire approximately every 5 years, 25% every 4.1-2.2 years and less than 1% every 2 years on average. Fire return period decreased in relation to an increase in mean annual rainfall. For terrestrial vegetation types, median fire return periods decreased with increasing herbaceous biomass, from forest that did not burn to grasslands that burnt every 2.64 years. Fire was absent from some permanent wetlands but seasonal wetlands burnt every 5.29 years. Grazer biomass above 0.5 animal units ha -1 had a limiting influence on the maximum fire frequency of fire-prone vegetation types. The primary determinant of long-term spatial fire patterns is thus fuel load as determined by mean rainfall, vegetation type, and the effects of grazing herbivores. © 2011 IAWF.


Combrink X.,University of KwaZulu - Natal | Korrbel J.L.,University of KwaZulu - Natal | Kyle R.,Ezemvelo KwaZulu Natal Wildlife | Taylor R.,University of KwaZulu - Natal | Ross P.,University of Florida
South African Journal of Wildlife Research | Year: 2011

Formerly widespread throughout the waterbodies of eastern South Africa, viable Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) populations are now restricted to three disjunct protected areas in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Growing evidence suggests that protected populations are declining, including the breeding C. niloticus population at Lake Sibaya in KZN. Aerial surveys were conducted at Lake Sibaya from 20032004 and 20072009, spotlight counts in 2003 and intensive nesting surveys in 2003 and 2004. Seven adults were counted during the 2009 aerial survey; an 89% decrease from the 1985 count (62 adults) and a decline of 9598% of the estimated 1970 adult population. Likewise, in 1970 30 nests were recorded, compared to three nests in 2003 and no recorded nests in 2004. The non-hatchling population in 2003 was estimated at 48 individuals and decreased to an estimated eight in 2009. The neighbouring community perceives crocodiles as a threat to their lives and livestock, and increasing human pressures on C. niloticus in the area will probably ensure that the population will not recover naturally. Unless crocodiles are perceived as a useful or somehow beneficial natural resource by the surrounding community, the species faces possible extirpation from Lake Sibaya in the future.


O'Connor T.G.,University of Witwatersrand | O'Connor T.G.,South African Environmental Observation Network | Morris C.D.,University of KwaZulu - Natal | Short A.,Private Bag X | And 2 more authors.
Rangeland Ecology and Management | Year: 2011

Commercial livestock production offers one of the main opportunities for mainstreaming of biodiversity conservation in the grassland biome of South Africa. Grazing management is expected to influence success. With the uses of three long-term grazing trials, effects of stocking rate and cattle-to-sheep ratio on the plant composition and diversity of Highland Sourveld grassland in KwaZulu-Natal were examined. Plant diversity was sampled with the use of modified Whittaker plots. Canonical correspondence analysis was used to test the effects of treatments on compositional variation, and general linear models were used to test individual species' responses. In a biennial rotation, burned/grazed plots supported lower species richness of forbs and all plants than unburned/ungrazed plots, attributed to the impact of grazing during the season of occupation. A high stocking rate resulted in a long-term decrease of forb richness in one experiment, but an increase in another. An increasing proportion of sheep to cattle resulted in a long-term decrease of the richness of forbs and of total species richness. The three trials identified nongrass species that behaved as increasers or decreasers in response to an increase in stocking rate, and a set of species that behaved as decreasers in response to an increasing proportion of sheep to cattle. Constraints on using long-term trials for identifying the effects of livestock management on plant diversity include lack of baseline data, limited replication, pre-experimental impacts on the study site, and the difficulty of assessing uncommon species. © 2011 Society for Range Management.


White A.M.,University of Nevada, Reno | Goodman P.S.,Ezemvelo KwaZulu Natal Wildlife
African Journal of Ecology | Year: 2010

The reintroduction of African elephants into fenced game reserves throughout South Africa has presented managers with several challenges. Although elephants are a natural part of southern African ecosystems, their confinement to fenced protected areas in South Africa has exacerbated their potential to impact their habitats negatively. However, many studies investigating the impact of elephants have failed to control for the effects of other browsers on the vegetative community. In this study, we used location data on an elephant herd to delineate high-use and low-use areas. This paired design allowed us to minimize confounding factors that could explain differences in the structure, diversity and utilization of woody species. We found little evidence to suggest elephant-mediated change in, or selection for, the structure or diversity of woody species; however, our results suggest that elephants may be altering the composition of species by preferentially using areas with higher canopy diversity and by enhancing sapling recruitment. Although stripping of bark was higher in high-use areas, there was no evidence of differential mortality of tree species. Therefore, in our study area, and over the current time scale, elephants are having a negligible impact on the vegetative community. © 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Kyle R.,Ezemvelo KwaZulu Natal Wildlife
African Journal of Marine Science | Year: 2013

The catches of the traditional fish traps in the Kosi Bay estuarine lakes were monitored over a 30-year period from 1981 to 2010. Monitoring data were used to provide estimates of, and insights into, catch size and species composition as well as seasonal and annual cycles of catch abundance. Over 1.2 million fish, comprising 43 species and 23 families, were estimated to have been caught during the study period. Tag-and-release data were used to estimate the impact of trap fishing on fish stocks and comparisons were made with recreational fishing to indicate overall fishing pressure and the sustainability of the fishing. Trap numbers remained fairly similar from the first year of monitoring (1981) until 1994, but thereafter they more than trebled by 2001; although numbers decreased after this, they remained well above earlier levels. During this period, recreational angling was an important factor, and gillnetting - both legal and illegal - added to the fishing pressure. Information from the fish trap monitoring, together with results from fish mark and recapture studies, suggest a very high, and possibly unsustainable, catch rate that requires management intervention to return them back to historical and sustainable levels. © 2013 Copyright NISC (Pty) Ltd.


Di Minin E.,University of Helsinki | Di Minin E.,University of KwaZulu - Natal | Laitila J.,University of Helsinki | Montesino-Pouzols F.,University of Helsinki | And 5 more authors.
Conservation Biology | Year: 2015

Between 1990 and 2007, 15 southern white (Ceratotherium simum simum) and black (Diceros bicornis) rhinoceroses on average were killed illegally every year in South Africa. Since 2007 illegal killing of southern white rhinoceros for their horn has escalated to >950 individuals/year in 2013. We conducted an ecological-economic analysis to determine whether a legal trade in southern white rhinoceros horn could facilitate rhinoceros protection. Generalized linear models were used to examine the socioeconomic drivers of poaching, based on data collected from 1990 to 2013, and to project the total number of rhinoceroses likely to be illegally killed from 2014 to 2023. Rhinoceros population dynamics were then modeled under 8 different policy scenarios that could be implemented to control poaching. We also estimated the economic costs and benefits of each scenario under enhanced enforcement only and a legal trade in rhinoceros horn and used a decision support framework to rank the scenarios with the objective of maintaining the rhinoceros population above its current size while generating profit for local stakeholders. The southern white rhinoceros population was predicted to go extinct in the wild <20 years under present management. The optimal scenario to maintain the rhinoceros population above its current size was to provide a medium increase in antipoaching effort and to increase the monetary fine on conviction. Without legalizing the trade, implementing such a scenario would require covering costs equal to approximately $147,000,000/year. With a legal trade in rhinoceros horn, the conservation enterprise could potentially make a profit of $717,000,000/year. We believe the 35-year-old ban on rhinoceros horn products should not be lifted unless the money generated from trade is reinvested in improved protection of the rhinoceros population. Because current protection efforts seem to be failing, it is time to evaluate, discuss, and test alternatives to the present policy. © 2014 The Authors. Conservation Biology published by wiley Periodicals, Inc., on behalf of the Society for Conservation Biology.


PubMed | University Utrecht, University of Pretoria and Ezemvelo KwaZulu Natal Wildlife
Type: | Journal: Veterinary immunology and immunopathology | Year: 2016

The African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is considered the most important maintenance host of bovine tuberculosis (BTB) in wildlife in Southern Africa. The diagnosis of Mycobacterium bovis infection in this species mostly relies on the single intradermal comparative tuberculin test (SICTT). As an alternative, the BOVIGAM 1G, an interferon-gamma (IFN-) release assay, is frequently used. The test performance of cell-mediated immunity (CMI-) and humoral immunity (HI-) based assays for the detection of M. bovis infections in buffaloes was compared to identify the test or test combination that provided the highest sensitivity in the study. Buffaloes were sampled during the annual BTB SICTT testing in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi-Park (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) during June 2013. A total of 35 animals were subjected to the SICTT, 13 of these tested positive and one showed an inconclusive reaction. CMI-based assays (BOVIGAM 1G (B1G) and BOVIGAM 2G (B2G)) as well as a serological assay (IDEXX TB ELISA) were used to further investigate and compare immune responsiveness. Thirteen SICTT positive buffaloes and one inconclusive reactor were slaughtered and a post-mortem (PM) examination was conducted to confirm BTB. Lesions characteristic of BTB were found in 8/14 animals (57.1%). Test results of individual assays were compared with serial and parallel test interpretation and the sensitivity was calculated as a percentage of test positives out of the number of SICTT positive animals with granulomatous lesions (relative sensitivity). The B1G assay showed the highest individual sensitivity (100%; 8/8) followed by the B2G assay (75%; 6/8) and the IDEXX TB ELISA (37.5%; 3/8). Therefore, using in parallel interpretation, any combination with the B1G showed a sensitivity of 100% (8/8), whereas combinations with the B2G showed a 75% sensitivity (6/8). Out of the 21 SICTT negative animals, 7 animals showed responsiveness in the B2G or IDEXX TB ELISA. In conclusion, this study has shown that the BOVIGAM IFN- assay had the highest test performance.

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