Earthwatch Institute

To engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment.
Jun 15, 2015

South Africa's Hyenas - Final Report

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:

Mar 6, 2015

South Africa's Hyenas - 2014 Highlights

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:

Dec 16, 2014

South Africa's Hyenas - Research Update

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.
 
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