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Lenchwe Le Tau, Botswana

Winterbach H.E.K.,Tau Consultants Pty Ltd | Winterbach H.E.K.,University of Pretoria | Winterbach C.W.,Tau Consultants Pty Ltd | Winterbach C.W.,University of Pretoria | And 3 more authors.
PeerJ | Year: 2015

Prey availability and human-carnivore conflict are strong determinants that govern the spatial distribution and abundance of large carnivore species and determine the suitability of areas for their conservation. For wide-ranging large carnivores such as cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), additional conservation areas beyond protected area boundaries are crucial to effectively conserve themboth inside and outside protected areas. Although cheetahs prefer preying on wild prey, they also cause conflict with people by predating on especially small livestock. We investigated whether the distribution of cheetahs' preferred prey and small livestock biomass could be used to explore the potential suitability of agricultural areas in Botswana for the long-term persistence of its cheetah population. We found it gave a good point of departure for identifying priority areas for land management, the threat to connectivity between cheetah populations, and areas where the reduction and mitigation of human-cheetah conflict is critical. Our analysis showed the existence of a wide prey base for cheetahs across large parts of Botswana's agricultural areas, which provide additional large areas with high conservation potential. Twenty percent of wild prey biomass appears to be the critical point to distinguish between high and low probable levels of human-cheetah conflict.We identified focal areas in the agricultural zones where restoring wild prey numbers in concurrence with effective human-cheetah conflict mitigation efforts are the most immediate conservation strategies needed to maintain Botswana's still large and contiguous cheetah population. © 2015 Winterbach et al.

Winterbach C.W.,University of Pretoria | Winterbach C.W.,Tau Consultants Pty Ltd | Whitesell C.,Tau Consultants Pty Ltd | Somers M.J.,University of Pretoria
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

Wildlife tourism can provide economic incentives for conservation. Due to the abundance of wildlife and the presence of charismatic species some areas are better suited to wildlife tourism. Our first objective was to develop criteria based on wildlife abundance and diversity to evaluate tourism potential in the Northern Conservation Zone of Botswana. Secondly we wanted to quantify and compare tourism experiences in areas with high and low tourism potential. We used aerial survey data to estimate wildlife biomass and diversity to determine tourism potential, while data from ground surveys quantified the tourist experience. Areas used for High Paying Low Volume tourism had significantly higher mean wildlife biomass and wildlife diversity than the areas avoided for this type of tourism. Only 22% of the Northern Conservation Zone has intermediate to high tourism potential. The areas with high tourism potential, as determined from the aerial survey data, provided tourists with significantly better wildlife sightings (ground surveys) than the low tourism potential areas. Even Low Paying tourism may not be economically viable in concessions that lack areas with intermediate to high tourism potential. The largest part of the Northern Conservation Zone has low tourism potential, but low tourism potential is not equal to low conservation value. Alternative conservation strategies should be developed to complement the economic incentive provided by wildlife-based tourism in Botswana. © 2015 Winterbach et al.

Winterbach H.E.K.,Tau Consultants Pty Ltd | Winterbach H.E.K.,University of Pretoria | Winterbach C.W.,Tau Consultants Pty Ltd | Winterbach C.W.,University of Pretoria | Somers M.J.,University of Pretoria
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Wide-ranging large carnivores often range beyond the boundaries of protected areas into human-dominated areas. Mapping out potentially suitable habitats on a country-wide scale and identifying areas with potentially high levels of threats to large carnivore survival is necessary to develop national conservation action plans. We used a novel approach to map and identify these areas in Botswana for its large carnivore guild consisting of lion (Panthera leo), leopard (Panthera pardus), spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta), brown hyaena (Hyaena brunnea), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and African wild dog (Lycaon pictus). The habitat suitability for large carnivores depends primarily on prey availability, interspecific competition, and conflict with humans. Prey availability is most likely the strongest natural determinant. We used the distribution of biomass of typical wild ungulate species occurring in Botswana which is preyed upon by the six large carnivores to evaluate the potential suitability of the different management zones in the country to sustain large carnivore populations. In areas where a high biomass of large prey species occurred, we assumed interspecific competition between dominant and subordinated competitors to be high. This reduced the suitability of these areas for conservation of subordinate competitors, and vice versa. We used the percentage of prey biomass of the total prey and livestock biomass to identify areas with potentially high levels of conflict in agricultural areas. High to medium biomass of large prey was mostly confined to conservation zones, while small prey biomass was more evenly spread across large parts of the country. This necessitates different conservation strategies for carnivores with a preference for large prey, and those that can persist in the agricultural areas. To ensure connectivity between populations inside Botswana and also with its neighbours, a number of critical areas for priority management actions exist in the agricultural zones. © 2014 Winterbach et al.

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