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Title: Comparative abundance and ranging behaviour of brown hyaena (Parahyaena brunnea) inside and outside protected areas in South Africa
Author: Richmond-Coggan, L.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5920 7188
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2014
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Global biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, principally as a consequence of increasing human population. Effects of this expansion are exemplified by the extent to which many carnivores are now in conflict with humans, particularly in unprotected rangelands. One such species is the brown hyaena (Parahyaena brunnea), classified as 'Near Threatened' (Wiesel et al., 2008). The IUCN SSC hyaenid specialist group identified that brown hyaena are under threat due to human persecution and noted that greater understanding of their distribution and abundance is needed. With the principal aim of assessing the distribution and abundance of brown hyaena in South Africa, this study responds to that challenge. Five specific objectives were established: to utilise local knowledge to map the distribution of carnivores across South Africa; to determine the factors driving attitudes and perceptions of South African farmers to carnivores; to determine differences in relative abundance of carnivores in protected areas compared to unprotected in the North West and Limpopo Provinces; to compare home range estimates and movement patterns of free living brown hyaena inside and outside protected areas in the same provinces; to determine what variables influence brown hyaena home range size. Distribution of brown hyaena and other carnivores, and attitudes to them, were determined using a web-based questionnaire involving multiple stakeholder groups. The results confirmed current knowledge on carnivore distributions but, critically, revealed wider distribution of brown hyaena and other key species than are currently known by IUCN (2013). Responses demonstrated that cultural group and land use type significantly affected attitudes towards all carnivores, with Afrikaans livestock farmers demonstrating the most overtly negative attitudes to all carnivore species. An encouraging finding was that 25% of land owner respondents had positive attitudes to brown hyaenas and were therefore likely to be well disposed to engaging in conservation activities. Further information on the abundance and movement ecology of brown hyaena was gained through an intensive field study in the North West and Limpopo Provinces, which are under-researched. The study was conducted in protected and unprotected areas since brown hyaenas are found in both but are subject to different pressures. The use of remote camera traps demonstrated that the relative abundance of brown hyaena was four times lower in unprotected areas than in the protected areas. A significant finding was that mesopredators showed higher relative abundances in the unprotected areas. This suggests probable further human-wildlife conflict if mesopredator release continues to occur. Low levels of abundance in the unprotected areas, in conjunction with persecution, led to the conclusion that conservation efforts should be focused here. GPS collars were used to determine differences between brown hyaena home range across the protected and unprotected areas, to gain insights into their habitat use, and to establish their movement patterns through the fragmented landscape. The study demonstrated that home range sizes in the unprotected areas were not only significantly smaller than in the protected areas but also substantially smaller than those found across the entire hyaena’s range. Reasons for the variation are suspected to be higher levels of persecution and greater biomass availability outside the protected areas in conjunction with the relatively high density of apex predators inside the protected areas. In conclusion, large carnivore research is critically required outside protected areas where carnivores are currently involved in the most conflict and are at the greatest risk.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available