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Save South Africa's Brown Hyaenas

by Earthwatch Institute
Save South Africa's Brown Hyaenas
Jul 5, 2012

Great strides for hyaenas and other animals!

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



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Organization Information

Earthwatch Institute

Location: Boston, MA - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @earthwatch_org
Project Leader:
Heather Wilcox
Boston, MA United States

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

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