Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.698142
Title: The role of small private game reserves in leopard Panthera pardus and other carnivore conservation in South Africa
Author: Pirie, Tara J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5989 7510
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2016
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Abstract:
Many large carnivores are declining globally; most threatened or risk extinction due to a loss of habitat, resources, and direct removal; often the later as a result of conflict with humans. Although leopards and many meso-carnivore species are still free roaming in South Africa, few data are available on these species outside large protected areas as they are often elusive, wide ranging and found at low densities. More data are needed on the population dynamics, ecology and biology of species such as leopard, if we are to implement evidence-based approaches to their conservation within small reserves and surrounding unprotected areas. Camera traps are being increasingly utilized in research, as they can record data on a species or a whole community at relatively low cost. Here we used a network of camera traps to monitor species presence at Thaba Tholo Wilderness Reserve, Mpumalanga, South Africa. We found that camera trap efficacy varied between species, with smaller carnivores significantly under-recorded more frequently than larger predators. However, leopards were successfully captured by camera trap when compared with more traditional monitoring methods (i.e. spoor). Small reserves may play an important role in the conservation of carnivores, but often these reserves are surrounded by farmland and the successful separation of livestock and game using a fence can affect vegetation composition, fragmenting the land further. However, these effects may be limited by the free movement of wild browsers and grazers through holes in the fence which may also decrease the negative effects of fencing while supporting endangered and highly mobile species such as the leopard Panthera pardus. Leopard densities were found to be 3.04 (S.E. +/-1.55) to 4.97 (S.E. +/-2.14) leopards per 100km2, which was lower than other estimates from South Africa, however the population was stable throughout the study suggesting the reserve was a source for leopard and offspring were dispersing. Although there was no evidence of habitat preference by the leopard, habitat was found to be more significant in influencing relative local abundances of meso-carnivores than potential associations with leopard and other larger carnivores. However abundance may have been affected by factors outside the reserve as conflict with humans was evident. Negative actions towards leopard and other carnivores in retaliation to the predation of animal stock occurred in the farmland surrounding the study site, with a significantly higher percentage of commercial game farmers responding that they would take action against one or more species of carnivore compared to livestock owners. The financial loss sustained with increasing game prices in South Africa could therefore increase the conflict between humans and carnivores across the country, which in turn could have detrimental effects on local leopard and other carnivore populations. The relatively high numbers of the extremely rare erythristic leopard occurring within the relatively low density leopard population is likely to be the result of genetic drift, which may have been a result of this conflict; highlighting that although small reserves may play an important role in the protection and propagation of threatened species it is human acceptance of carnivores which is likely to be vital in the successful conservation and long term survival of predators outside protected areas.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.698142  DOI: Not available
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