Collaborative paper with the University of Johannesburg on the impacts of lethal management on the genetic of jackal and caracal

Dear followers,

We are glad to announce the publication of our recent collaborative research paper with the Center for Ecological Genomics and Wildlife Conservation at the University of Johannesburg. The paper was writen by Dr. Laura Tensen, Marine Drouilly and Prof. Bettine van Vuuren, and was published in the Journal of Mammalogy. You can download the paper on that page. The abstract of the paper is presented below.

Abstract:

Jackals (Canis mesomelas) and caracals (Caracal caracal) are considered major predators of small livestock on farms across South Africa, with both species being subjected to lethal control. Lethal management (i.e., culling) can result in differential responses in the population dynamics and demography of mesopredators. We examined the potential impacts that high population turnover, due to lethal management, may have on the genetic structure and diversity of jackal and caracal populations. We included mitochondrial markers to assess the movement of maternal lineages across the landscape as a proxy for dispersal. We further employed variable microsatellite markers to quantify levels of genetic diversity and relatedness among individuals. We found that high population turnover in both species may promote compensatory dispersal, which is consistent with the high levels of genetic diversity observed in both species. Structure analysis showed that the jackal population was comprised of 2 genetic clusters, while all the caracals belonged to a single nuclear genetic cluster. The weak differentiation between the jackal clusters (FST = 0.08), and the high level of inbreeding (FIS = 0.112) in the Central Karoo cluster, suggests that they likely represent demic populations. These data can be used as a baseline for ongoing population monitoring. Temporal monitoring of wildlife populations that are exposed to lethal management is important for a better understanding of the long-term effects on species ecology and survival success.

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Final feedback on the Karoo Predator Project

Last week, Marion and Marine drove up to the Central Karoo to give a final feedback on the results of their research to the farmers and other interested parties. Nelmarié Saayman from the Department of Agriculture – Western Cape Government also gave a presentation on the veld condition of the Gamka Karoo vegetation type in the Central Karoo, in terms of vegetation and soil erosion potential in two rainfall zones.

This meeting was an opportunity to see the farmers again and other stakeholders who have been involved in the Karoo Predator Project, and to discuss the results of Marine’s PhD together. It was also the opportunity to thank all the people who participated in the success of the project.

Even if the Karoo Predator Project is drawing to an end, results will keep being published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and in magazines for the general public. UCT is also involved with more ecological research around the SKA in the Northern Cape Karoo.

Watch this space for our work that has just been accepted in peer-reviewed scientific journals and that we will share with you soon.

Marine presenting a summary of all the results from her PhD to the farmers and interested parties in Laingsburg, Central Karoo.

 

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New paper published on species richness and occupancy on farmland and in Anysberg Nature Reserve

Dear followers,

I am happy to share with you that we have published a new paper in the international journal Biological Conservation and titled “Multi-species occupancy modelling of mammal and ground bird communities in rangeland in the Karoo: A case for dryland systems globally”.

We used camera traps along with a novel statistical method and showed that species richness was not significantly different between the protected area and the neighboring extensive small-livestock farms. Our results reveal that drylands in the South African Karoo region, including rangeland used for small-livestock farming, support a diverse community of terrestrial vertebrates and that therefore, private landowners are important custodians of key components of indigenous biodiversity outside of protected areas. This result is particularly important for conservation and support the approach of biodiversity stewardship programmes such as the one created by CapeNature, the governmental body organization in charge of nature conservation in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. For more info about their programme, see http://www.capenature.co.za/care-for-nature/stewardship/

If you want to read the full article, please follow this link and ask me to share the paper (the Journal does not allow us to directly share the paper on social media and blogs): https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325390950_Multi-species_occupancy_modelling_of_mammal_and_ground_bird_communities_in_rangeland_in_the_Karoo_A_case_for_dryland_systems_globally

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Wolf urine creates fear in red foxes

A new paper has been published recently in the scientific journal Oecologia about a possible mechanism through which medium-sized predators avoid interactions with larger predators.

Link to the paper: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00442-018-4133-3

Dog food was made available to red foxes at feeding stations in Croatia. When the researchers placed granules scented with wolf urine at those feeding stations, red foxes left more food behind and spent less time in visiting food patches each day. The researchers showed that red foxes were using their olfaction to assess the risk represented by wolf urine.

This research is very interesting as it might also apply to medium-sized carnivores such as black-backed jackals and larger carnivores such as leopards.

The “PredatorPee®, Wolf Urine Yard Cover Granules” might also serve as a jackal deterrent on small-livestock farms where jackal predation is an important problem. Though we do not know if those granules would work on jackals that have never met wolves, or their potential impacts on sheep… Some farmers have reported using cheetah scat in plastic bottles tied to their fences to scare medium-sized carnivores off the area where their sheep were grazing.

A lot more research is needed to find non-lethal ways of protecting sheep against predators in South Africa and worldwide.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00442-018-4133-3

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An interesting read about ditching stereotypes when working with human communities

Although about orangutans in Borneo, this blog is a great read for anyone involves in conservation work with local communities. Humans are as (or even more!) complex than animals, and as ecologists/conservationists, we sometimes tend to forget it.

https://pokokborneo.wordpress.com/2018/02/27/ditching-stereotypes-to-save-orangutans/

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Webinar on large carnivore in Europe and interesting story of a shepherdess in the Swiss Alps

Today, The Karoo Predator Project attended a webinar on large carnivores in Europe (grey wolf, Eurasian lynx and brown bear) and on how sheep farmers could protect their sheep from predation. Tonu Talvi (Environmental Board of Estonia) and Valeria Salvatori (co-author of the European Commission guidance document “Guidelines for population-level management plans for large carnivores” and presenting the Italian NGO DifesAttiva), gave us some insights on large carnivores, predation and sheep protection in Estonia and Italy.

The audience was from all across Europe and beyond and all seemed to agree that livestock guarding dogs (LGDs) are a great solution against large carnivore predation when they are properly trained and cared for, and when associated with a shepherd(ess) or with electric fences. The European Wilderness Society shared an article with the participants about a shepherdess and her dogs doing great work in the Swiss Alps, have a read: http://wilderness-society.org/a-shepherdess-respected-by-wolves-on-the-swiss-ramuz-alp/

Some concerns about the emergence of the golden jackal as a potential predator of sheep were raised during the post-conference discussion, with a participant highlighting the fact that all the different stakeholders should start including the species in their activities/research.

Source of the picture: http://www.discoverwildlife.com/news/golden-jackal-european-or-not

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UCT puts our research in the spotlight

This week, UCT chose to communicate about our recent paper on dietary niche relationship between predators in the Karoo. They published a great article written by Nadia Krige about it called “The unexpected appetites of predators in the Karoo”. Our research were also advertised on UCT News.

Have a read and let us know what you think about our results!

We would like to thank the UCT Research Office and particularly Jess, Carolyn and Lisa for advertising our work. Thanks also to Nadia Krige for relating our findings without the scientific jargon and to Nathalie Houdin and Denis Palanque for providing some great photography to illustrate the article.

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