Another great SAWMA symposium

The South African Wildlife Management Association (SAWMA) held its annual symposium in the Boland mountains of the Western Cape during the week of 10-14 September. This year’s main theme was “Wildlife Management in the Face of Global Change”. Scientists, students, managers and decision makers in the field of wildlife and natural resource management gathered to present their work and discuss the latest research and management findings in (southern) Africa.

Both Justin and Marine presented their work, but Justin talked about monkey management in Cape Town. Unfortunately, Marion could not present her research on Karoo baboons this year. We also missed Storme who is busy writing up her research at the moment. Marine presented her camera trapping work in a talk titled “Community structure, diversity and distribution of semi-desert mammals and ground birds living on farmland and a protected area” and won the second prize for the PhD presentations.

Marine giving her talk to the SAWMA audience.

This year, we were lucky to once again have really interesting keynote speakers. It was great to have the chance to meet and discuss with colleagues from all across the country. The Association did an excellent job in organizing the symposium, which was very successful. Prof. Steven Redpath (University of Aberdeen), Dr. Pip Masters (Envisage Environmental Services, Australia) and Dr. Ben Allen (University of Southern Queensland) joined Justin and some students from iCWild for a post-conference field trip.

The Karoo Predator Project would like to thank SAWMA for the great symposium they organize each year and AfriVet and ESAG for the super cool student prizes!

Marine, all happy with the books she received as the runner-up of the PhD presentations.



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New published paper

Dear followers,

I am glad to share with you today a new publication in which the Karoo Predator Project took part recently about the phylogeny of African jackals. The research was led by Dr. Anagaw Atickem, Dr. Christian Roos and Dr. Dietmar Zinner from the German Primate Center (DPZ) in Germany. It was published in Zoologica Scripta under the title “Deep divergence among mitochondrial lineages in African jackals“. This study contributes to close the gap in our knowledge about the evolutionary history of canids by investigating the phylogenetic relationship between populations of African jackals Lupulella mesomelas and Lupulella adusta. And yes, as you have noticed, the black-backed jackal won’t be called Canis mesomelas anymore, but Lupulella mesomelas! But the most exciting and interesting point of the paper is that the two mesomelas populations, the one from southern Africa and the one from Eastern Africa, might in fact be two different species. More research is needed to conclude on that last point though.

You can click on this link to read the paper at Wiley or read the abstract below:

Recently, molecular analyses revealed that African and Eurasian golden jackals are distinct species. This finding suggests re-investigation of the phylogenetic relationships and taxonomy of other African members of the Canidae. Here, we provide a study on the phylogenetic relationship between populations of African jackals Lupulella mesomelas and L. adusta inferred from 962 bp of the mitochondrial cytochrome b (cytb) gene. As expected from its disjunct distribution, with one population in eastern Africa and the other one in southern Africa, we found two mitochondrial lineages within L. mesomelas, which diverged about 2.5 million years ago (Ma). In contrast, in L. adusta with its more continuous distribution in sub- Saharan Africa, we found only a shallower genetic diversification, with the exception of the West African population, which diverged around 1.4 Ma from the Central and East African populations. Both divergence ages are older than, for example the 1.1–0.9 million years between the grey wolf Canis lupus and the African golden wolf C. lupaster. One taxonomic implication of our findings might be that the two L. mesomelas populations warrant species status. However, genome-wide data with adequate geographical sampling are needed to substantiate our results.

Camera trap picture of a young black-backed jackal on a farm in the Central Karoo.


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Denis Palanque talks about his experience with the KPP for 1Frame4Nature

Dear readers,

today I would like to share with you the article written by Denis Palanque for the ILCP (International League of Conservation Photographers) 1Frame4Nature initiative.

1Frame4Nature is a collection of images and stories from around the globe of your personal connection to nature. Denis chose to speak about his experience in the Karoo with the Karoo Predator Project. His article was published on the National Geographic blog “Voices for Wildlife”. Thank you Denis for sharing your personal experience with us.

Seeing all the beautiful pictures Denis and Nathalie took in the Karoo makes me miss the Karoo and the farmers so much! But important work is underway at UCT, with the analysis of all the data collected, the writing of papers and of course the PhD… More on this subject soon.

To view Denis’ article, follow the link below:…/1frame4nature-gold…/

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The Karoo Predator Project down under

Last July, The Karoo Predator Project was at the 12th International Mammalogical Congress in Perth, Australia. Happening only every 4 years, the Congress provides “an important forum for professional mammalogists wishing to remain updated on the last marine and terrestrial mammal conservation topics, research concepts and techniques.”

Painting of a numbat, the Western Australian state emblem, in a car park in Freemantle.

Western grey kangaroo at Dryandra Woodland, Western Australia.

The theme of IMC12 was “Advances in mammalogy in a changing world” and encouraged discussion of future challenges and novel solutions in mammal biology, conservation and management. The Congress offered different symposia and it is under the “Advances in research and conservation of small African carnivores” that Marine gave a talk on caracals on farmland in the Karoo. The symposium was organized and chaired by Dr. Paula White from the University of California Los Angeles, USA and by Dr. Emmanuel Do Linh San from the University of Fort Hare, South Africa (more about one of their interesting projects in a future blog post).

Marine’s presentation about caracals on farmland during the IMC12 in Perth, Australia.

The Congress was a great opportunity to listen to and meet prominent international  speakers. It was particularly interesting to meet Professor Claudio Sillero, Chair of the IUCN Canid Specialist Group, who talked about the biology of Canids in human-dominated landscapes. Other talks about coyotes, dingoes and African carnivores were all relevant to the Karoo Predator Project. The Congress was also a great opportunity to attend talks about other subjects.

Dr. Benjamin Allen’s presentation on dingo conservation in Australia.

Plenary speaker Prof. David Mcdonald talking about “The paradigmatic lion: From social biology to social media” at the IMC12 in Perth, Western Australia.

Attending the IMC12 in Perth also gave the chance to explore the surroundings of Perth and to join some of the mid- and post-conference tours organized for the occasion. It was an amazing experience to meet the quokkas of Rottness Island, to visit the endangered native species breeding programme of Perth Zoo and to go on a nocturnal tour at Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre Inc to spot woylies, bilbies and boodies (you should Google these creatures!).

Quokka on Rottness Island, Western Australia.

The post-conference tour at Dryandra Woodland, a valuable nature conservation area featuring the largest remnants of original vegetation in the Wheatbelt, was particularly interesting. Along with the other researchers, we visited the Barna Mia exclosure that aims to protect endangered native wildlife from introduced predators, we trapped for woylies and possums, and did some birdwatching. We even found the strange tawny frogmouth during the last evening of our stay! But the highlight of the tour was certainly to capture and radio-track Western Australia’s state emblem, the numbat.

Exclosure to protect endangered numbats and woylies from stray cats’ and red foxes’ predation.

The top of the fence is floppy to prevent predators from climbing on it.

The bottom of the fence is made of an anti-dig apron anchored to the ground with metal pieces.

A female numbat equipped with a radio-tracking collar. Numbats are endangered due to the predation of introduced carnivores.

The Karoo Predator Project thanks all the people who made this trip possible and who shared their experience about the incredible native Australian wildlife.


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The Karoo Predator Project invited to a French Festival about predators

Ten days ago in a little French town in the heart of the Jura mountain range was launched a Festival about predators called “Vous avez dit prédateurs?”, organized by the Pôle Grands Prédateurs, a French NGO which main aims are to communicate about the come back of predators to France and help the sheep farmers to protect their flocks with guard dogs.

The Festival happened in Lons-le-Saunier. It is the administrative center of the Jura French Department and is famous for its thermal baths.

Typical Jura landscape. The Lamoura Lake in the Jura mountain range is the highest of the region. With an elevation of 1156 m, its surface area is 4.4 ha.

The Karoo Predator Project was invited to the event to present the situation between sheep farmers and predators in South Africa (mainly the black-backed jackal and the caracal) and to talk about the work Marine is conducting there for her PhD. The conference was illustrated with the beautiful pictures of Nathalie Houdin and Denis Palanque and was followed by questions and an interesting debate.

Festival “Vous avez dit prédateurs?” at the CARCOM in Lons-le-Saunier, Jura.

The Festival was really interesting with the screening of the Pôle Grands Prédateurs new documentary about guard dogs in the Jura “Sentinelles des troupeaux”; the movie of Tommy Gaillard about the challenges of coexistence between humans and predators in the world and the very educational and enlightening conference of the historian Thomas Pfeiffer about the come back of the wolf in France.

The film “Sentinelles des Troupeaux” gives Jura sheep farmers using guard dogs the floor to talk about their experience with them.

Activities for school children, as well as nature photography and slide shows were also presented.

The Festival ended up well with the beautiful movie “La Vallée des Loups” in the presence of its director Jean-Michel Bertrand (right), of Patrice Raydelet (director of the Pôle Grands Prédateurs) (left) and of Gaël Fromentin (director of the library of the Lons-le-Saunier) (middle).

It was interesting to see once again that the “farmer-predator conflict” is a worldwide problem and that many different actors are working towards finding sustainable, ethical and cost-effective solutions to allow coexistence.

Marine with Patrick Boffy, vice-président / pastoralism coordinator at the NGO FERUS, and Ghislaine Letourneur, artist and author, proudly showing the sign against random killings of wolves in the Alps. Real long-term solutions, such as giving guard dogs to sheep farmers, will help in the protection of the farmers’ livelihoods and their livestock in the French mountains. For more info, see the page of the  CAP loup community.

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Urban caracal diet

Dear readers,

It’s early winter in South Africa and Cape Town has been particularly warm and dry. So dry that the City implemented restrictions on water usage. We are all concerned and even with last week big storm the dam levels haven’t increased much. The animals seem to be able to find enough water in the mountains though. I keep being amazed by how adaptable the species living on the urban edge are. One such example is the caracal. Urban caracals in Cape Town have been studied for two years now by my friend and colleague Dr. Laurel Serieys. Check out her website for more info, she has a great introduction video to her work:

Talking about urban caracals, I thought I’d share the blog of a colleague who is studying the diet of those cats in the city of Cape Town under Laurel’s guidance (her supervisors being Justin and Jacqui). Gabi Leighton is an MSc student at UCT who started her project in 2016. Justin had asked me to teach her how to prepare scats in the lab to analyse their content and Gabi found really interesting stuff! What amazed me the most is to see how different the Cape Town caracals are from the Karoo caracals, while they are only separated by a few hundreds of kilometers. To find out what urban caracals eat and learn more about Gabi’s work, visit her blog:


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Two days with CapeNature

Last week, Marion and Marine were invited by Dr.AnneLise Schutte-Vlok (again!) to present their research at the CapeNature Quarterly Meeting in Oudtshoorn.

It was good to see Marius Brand (manager of Anysberg Nature Reserve) and Theresa van der Westhuizen (Conservation Services Manager) again and to discuss our results with new people.

Marion presenting her work on Karoo baboons to the CapeNature Quarterly Meeting in Oudtshoorn in the presence of Mr. Mbulelo Jacobs, CapeNature Garden Route area manager

The previous day, Marion and Marine stayed in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve and had the opportunity to see some of its amazing rock art in the company of Tom Barry (manager of the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve), Johan Huisamen (ecological coordinator for CapeNature) and Natacha and Annelise, two CapeNature interns.

Bibrons Thicktoe Gecko (Chondrodactylus bibronii), our night friend in the cottage in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Marion, Johan, Annelise, Natacha and Tom in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Discovering some rock art in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Rock art in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

A special thank you to Dr. Annelise Schutte-Vlok to make it possible and organizing our venue to this far side of the Karoo, from fuel to accommodation; thanks to Tom for showing us around the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve and to CapeNature for their assistance with our research.

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