Carnivore diet analysis in progress

Since the beginning of the Project in October 2012, Marine has been collecting caracal, black-backed jackal and leopard scats on farms and in Anysberg Nature Reserve to study their diets. With a total of more than 680 scats collected, it is now time to analyse their contents in the lab at UCT.

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A microscope is used to identify prey species found in scats from cross-sections of hairs.

The scats have all been washed, dried, measured and weighted in the field beforehand so the remaining work consists in separating and weighing the different components of the scats, a very meticulous task! Each component is then assigned to a category, such as hair/wool/berry/feather/reptile… to describe the diet.

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Kai separating components from a black-backed jackal scat. Here, we mostly see remains of berries from the Gwarrie bush (Euclea undulata).

So far, only the jackal scats have been analyzed and the findings are sometimes surprising. First of all, the canid’s diet varies a lot between farmlands and protected area. In the Reserve, jackals seem to mostly eat rodents and berries, yes berries! On the farms however, the bulk of the diet consists of livestock – with both sheep and goat remains being found – even if berries and to a lesser extent common duiker are also discovered.

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Feather remains in a black-backed jackal scat from Anysberg Nature Reserve.

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Remains from the fruits of the sweetthorn, Vachellia karroo, found in black-backed jackal scat.

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