Save South Africa's Brown Hyaenas

 
$600 $2,895
Raised Remaining

Thank you for following and supporting Earthwatch’s South Africa’s Hyenas research expedition. After nine enlightening years of data collection, Dr. Dawn Scott will be concluding her research on South Africa’s scavengers this summer, and will begin a new study this fall on effective protection and management strategies for South Africa’s highly endangered rhinos.

As South Africa’s Hyenas draws to a close, we are pleased to share some highlights from the final season:

  • Volunteers completed both summer and winter spotlight transects and camera studies.
  • Juno, a young brown hyena rescued from the streets of Johannesburg, was rehabilitated and released successfully back in the wild at Mankwe.
  • An active brown hyena den with pups was located using camera traps.

This research focused on several key objectives:

  • To determine the distribution and abundance of scavengers and carnivores across the North West province.
  • To assess and compare scavenger and carnivore presence, abundance, density, diet, breeding, and habitat use in areas with different levels of protection and land use.
  • To determine what factors affected their distribution patterns.

We are proud to say that all objectives have been met. Over the years, the South Africa's Hyenas expedition has informed many papers, contributed to multiple PhD degrees, inspired countless volunteers, influenced local management policies, and will continue to serve as a guide to landowners on more effective ways to live with carnivores and scavengers. Several more papers are scheduled to be published in 2015, and there will be a new International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) species assessment for brown hyenas that will draw from the significant body of information amassed over the last decade.

Thank you again for your steady support of this project. None of these accomplishments would have been possible without caring and committed donors like you!

With gratitude,

Heather Wilcox
Director of Annual Giving & Advancement Services
hwilcox@earthwatch.org
978-450-1208

P.S. If you’d like more information about Dr. Scott’s upcoming research on Conserving Endangered Rhinos in South Africa, please follow the link to the expedition page, below.

Links:

A hyena captured by camera trap
A hyena captured by camera trap

Thank you for supporting and following along with Earthwatch’s hyena conservation efforts in South Africa! Dr. Dawn Scott and her team will resume their research in Pilanesberg National Park with the help of Earthwatch volunteers from May  – November 2015. In the meantime, I’m pleased to share with you now some preliminary highlights from the 2014 data.

  • All volunteer teams collected the data that was needed and met their research objectives, using camera traps, large mammal transects, spotlight transects, latrine surveys and hours of dung beetle identification.

  • Camera traps were used to remotely monitor a denning site for a family of brown hyenas with at least four cubs.

  • Helped relocate a young brown hyena that was found roaming the suburbs of Johannesberg. Dr. Scott says, “This has highlighted further concerns of human-wildlife conflicts as a result of urban expansion, and wildlife in urban areas as well as in farmlands.”

  • Approximately 100 school children visited the volunteers at work and were taught about ecosystems and sustainability. In addition, 1,600 questionnaires were completed by children in local schools to measure their opinions towards carnivores and to help understand what effects children’s attitudes.

In addition to informing Dr. Scott’s research, papers and information collected are also submitted to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) hyena specialist group to aid international dissemination and species assessment.

None of this data collection would be possible without the ongoing support you provide as a concerned conservationist. On behalf of our scientists, volunteers and staff, thank you again for all that you do for Earthwatch and for hyena rescue. We look forward to sharing more results and updates after the 2015 fielding season begins in May!

Sincerely,

Heather Wilcox
Director of Annual Giving & Advancement Services

P.S. Remember, you don’t just have to read about this research from afar… you can participate in it directly as a volunteer! Our 2015 teams are still accepting volunteers. Visit South Africa’s Hyenas to learn more about daily life in the field as a biologist, or to reserve your spot as a volunteer today!

Setting a camera trap
Setting a camera trap
Scavenging captured by camera trap
Scavenging captured by camera trap
Examining a scavenger bird
Examining a scavenger bird

Links:

Local landowners often consider hyenas to be pests
Local landowners often consider hyenas to be pests

Thank you for following Earthwatch’s hyena conservation program in South Africa! With your support, Dr. Dawn Scott and her team have just concluded their ninth year of research in the African savannah, to the northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Since our last report, another 13 teams of 95 total volunteers have joined Dr. Scott in the field to collect data on hyenas and other scavenger species, which are often misunderstood but play crucially important roles in maintaining overall ecosystem health by sustaining biodiversity and reducing disease. People tend to regard scavengers with disdain and subject them to harmful treatment. Only small regions of South Africa are protected, so most scavengers live in unprotected areas where they are subject to persecution. The loss of these species could have serious consequences for the surrounding ecosystems.

Fewer than 1,700 free-ranging brown hyenas remain in South Africa. To ensure their survival, we must understand the ecology of wildlife in unprotected compared with protected areas. Under Dr. Scott’s guidance, Earthwatch volunteers will try to answer these questions by:

  • Hiking to survey wildlife, looking for tracks, droppings (which help researchers find out what animals eat), dens, and other traces of wildlife.
  • Monitoring camera traps - mounted cameras that automatically photograph anything that passes by.
  • Tracking animals at night, by spotlight to count predators like lions, leopards, and other carnivores.
  • Trapping and studying dung beetles. (Dung beetles play a key role in ecosystems and can indicate the health of mammal populations in an area; their diversity is closely linked with the diversity of mammal species).
  • Visiting schools, to help educate local communities on the importance of protecting scavenger species.

Dr. Scott will resume her research in 2015 from May – November with another four teams of 14 Earthwatch volunteers each. We are very excited to be able to watch this project and its data unfold for another year, knowing that the information we collect is helping to protect the brown hyena from further decline.

Thank you again for your interest in and support of South Africa’s Hyenas. Progress like this could never be possible without the generosity of passionate conservationists like YOU.

Wishing you a festive holiday and a healthy, happy and sustainable new year!

Sincerely,

Heather Wilcox
Director of Annual Giving & Advancement Services

Have questions about your donations, or about this report? Want more information about Earthwatch's hyenas conservation efforts? Email me any time at hwilcox@earthwatch.org.

Camera traps record any animal that passes by.
Camera traps record any animal that passes by.
Hyenas compete with large carnivorous cats.
Hyenas compete with large carnivorous cats.
Black-backed jackals are also threatened.
Black-backed jackals are also threatened.
Analyzing scat to find out what animals eat.
Analyzing scat to find out what animals eat.
African wild dogs are endangered large carnivores.
African wild dogs are endangered large carnivores.
View near the project area
View near the project area

Dear Global Giving Supporters,

Wow, what a year! Seven full teams, fielding forty-seven volunteers from all over the world, spent endless hours looking for scat, spotlighting until late at night and pulling smelly guts to camera traps, their efforts are supported by your donations and are greatly appreciated by all the scientists involved--and especially by the special scavengers that are often forgotten. This year volunteers also spotted the back footed cat, which is of conservation concern and
has not been recorded in the region for a while. 

We covered over 800km of spotlighting, completed 50 camera trap locations and covered 265km of latrine surveys, recording 570 hyena and 330 jackal latrines. The dung beetle team recorded 45 different species and collected over 1015 individuals! Analysis of the radio-tracking data from the vultures' collars has been showing just how far these birds go, with journeys from South Africa to Namibia and very little use of protected areas, so that is providing essential data on the ecology and conservation of these species. Other highlights for us and the volunteers have been the school education days: we had about 250 school children visit us this year and we know volunteers, staff, and students get a lot out of their visits and we hope to continue this community involvement to improve the hyenas and other scavengers' local reputations.

Our latest publication, accepted by Biological Conservation, gives some indication of the number of carnivores killed each year in the area. Overall 67% of farmers use lethal control of carnivores. From 99 farmers' records of control we estimated the number of carnivores killed in the province are around 18,476 jackals, 699 Caracalla, 275 leopards,137 cheetahs,and 55 brown hyenas.  These figures represent 6% of estimated leopard numbers in South Africa’s 10 main sub-populations, 34% of estimated free-ranging cheetah numbers outside of protected areas, and 3% of estimated total population size for brown hyenas in South Africa.

The effect that reported destruction rates have on the conservation status and sustainability of the many species is difficult to infer because of a lack of reliable, contemporary population estimates and local demographic data.  However, brown hyenas occur within a restricted distribution range in the South West Arid Zone of Southern Africa
and the estimated global population comprises <10,000 mature individuals.  A 10% population decline over three generations would cause brown hyenas to be re-classified as Vulnerable. Therefore, an annual provincial destruction rate of 3% of the national population could constitute a serious threat to the species. Our research this past year, made possible by your support, helped gather this data which can now shine a greater light on this threat.

In addition, the data we've gathered on hyena genetics this year will help to enhance genetic diversity. We've assessed the importance and size of the population at Pilanesberg National Park to ensure incorporation into future management plans to maintain this population.

We work regularly with at least ten different landowners in the area for monitoring and have had connections via questionnaires and surveys with more than 200 nationally and locally. We provide research talks to Northwest area parks so that we can highlight the results of the project and attend national conferences and forums on wildlife management.

Land and water meet in South Africa
Land and water meet in South Africa's interior
Earthwatch teens help with landscape management
Earthwatch teens help with landscape management
Hyaena "caught" feeding on night camera trap
Hyaena "caught" feeding on night camera trap

Links:


Attachments:

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.

donate now:

Funded

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

Still want to help?
Support another project run by Earthwatch Institute that needs your help, such as:

Organization

Project Leader

Heather Wilcox

Boston, MA United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Save South Africa's Brown Hyaenas