Aliza le Roux

Aliza le Roux
University of the Free State | ufs · Department of Zoology and Entomology

PhD

About

67
Publications
27,240
Reads
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905
Citations
Citations since 2017
25 Research Items
573 Citations
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2017201820192020202120222023020406080100120
2017201820192020202120222023020406080100120
Introduction
I'm a behavioral ecologist conducting research on carnivores and primates in South Africa. Recently, I wrapped up a project focusing on the behavior and cognitive ecology of bat-eared foxes in the Kalahari Desert, and I am now starting up a new project on the cognitive ecology of black-backed jackals in Golden Gate Highlands National Park. I'm involved in several collaborations, including primate research (cognition and risk-responses), and road ecology.
Additional affiliations
February 2012 - present
University of the Free State
February 2008 - May 2011
University of Michigan
January 2001 - December 2007
Stellenbosch University

Publications

Publications (67)
Article
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Research suggests that wild animals in urban areas exhibit heightened behavioral flexibility when they encounter novel human-made objects, but most such studies compared responses in urban populations with those from disjunct populations in less disturbed environments. We therefore know little about intrapopulation variation in cognitive or behavio...
Article
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This Commentary is a response to a Commentary published in the May/June 2020 issue: Nattrass N. Why are black South African students less likely to consider studying biological sciences? S Afr J Sci. 2020;116(5/6), Art. #7864, 2 pages. https://doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2020/7864 Responses to the Commentary in the May/June 2020 issue have been publish...
Article
Aim The road network is increasing globally but the consequences of roadkill on the viability of wildlife populations are largely unknown. We provide a framework that allows us to estimate how risk of extinction of local populations increases due to roadkill and to generate a global assessment that identifies which mammalian species are most vulner...
Article
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The immediate, intermediate, and long-term implications of seismic surveys for hydrocarbon exploration merit noting. If seismic surveys detect feasible hydrocarbon deposits, they effectively serve as a precursor to hydrocarbon extraction and consumption. The additional greenhouse gas emissions that will originate from new oil and gas fields in Sout...
Article
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Innovation — the ability to solve problems in a novel way — is not only associated with cognitive abilities and relative brain size, but also by noncognitive traits, such as personality and motivation. We used a novel foraging task with three access options to determine how neophobia, exploration, and persistence influence innovation in 12 habituat...
Article
An animal’s ability to traverse a landscape and utilise available resources is vital for its survival. The movement patterns of an animal provide insight into space use, activity patterns and ecological requirements that are imperative for successful farming and wildlife management practices. Home ranges are often used as a measurement of space use...
Article
Wildlife and livestock farms around the world have eradicated large predators, leaving an empty niche for mesopredators to occupy. In South Africa, black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) are a widely distributed mesopredator that actively prey on wildlife and livestock. Despite the documented economic losses often associated with livestock predatio...
Article
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Research to inform a sustainable future for southern African mountains as socialecological systems requires major investment. This is needed to strengthen existing relationships, build new relationships among academia, policy, and practice, and drive a robust research capacity program. This is particularly important in disciplines where there is cu...
Article
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Information on genetic variation within and among populations is relevant for a broad range of topics in biology. We use a combination of mitochondrial and nuclear microsatellite markers to evaluate genetic variation within and between two populations of bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis Desmarest, 1822) in South Africa. The bat-eared fox is a sma...
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Nature is experiencing degradation and extinction rates never recorded before in the history of Earth.1,2 Consequently, continuous large-scale monitoring programmes are critical, not only to provide insights into population trends but also to aid in understanding factors associated with altering population dynamics at various temporal and spatial s...
Preprint
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A response to a commentary in the South African Journal of Science
Article
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Earthworms exhibit clumping behaviour in and out of the soil. However, it remains unknown if such social behaviour ultimately influences the outcome of ecotoxicological experiments in the laboratory. We performed several overnight avoidance tests to determine whether social behaviour (i.e., local enhancement) is a factor in pollution avoidance beha...
Article
The bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) is considered a termite specialist. However, studies of its diet have been limited to indirect methods, such as scat and stomach content analyses, resulting in intraspecific dietary variations due in part to methodological differences. Because diet plays a central role in the social dynamics of these canids, we...
Article
Aside from some studies on cooperatively breeding species, we know little about the underlying endocrine mechanisms of social behaviour in the order Carnivora. We investigated the correlations between steroid hormones and social behaviour in a socially monogamous canid, the bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis). We collected faecal and observational da...
Article
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South Africa remains at the leading edge of scientific publishing on the African continent, yet few analyses of publication patterns exist outside the biomedical field. Considering the large number of protected areas and mammalian guilds within the country, I examined trends in South African ecological research as it pertains to the behaviour of ma...
Article
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The Afromontane Research Unit (ARU) at the University of the Free State's Qwaqwa campus in South Africa has a steadily growing reputation as a leading research unit on sustainable development in Afromontane regions. Learning from international experts, researchers in this unit have focused on multi- and transdisciplinary scientific approaches to th...
Article
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Individual differences in cognition have been shown to be common in some animal taxa, and recent evidence suggests that an individual’s personality can be associated with an individual’s cognitive strategy. We tested whether wild bat-eared foxes Otocyon megalotis differ in a risk-taking behavior (tameness) and whether this trait correlated with app...
Article
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Roads impact wildlife through a range of mechanisms from habitat loss and decreased landscape connectivity to direct mortality through wildlife-vehicle collisions (roadkill). These collisions have been rated amongst the highest modern risks to wildlife. With the development of “citizen science” projects, in which members of the public participate i...
Article
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Vigilance is commonly used to assess anti-predator behavior; however, the majority of studies assess only high-cost vigilance, which interrupts any other activities. Low-cost vigilance, by comparison, allows animals to be vigilant while engaged in other activities, thereby reducing the cost of vigilance. Here, we investigate the use of high- and lo...
Article
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Understanding how animals utilize their habitat provides insights about their ecological needs and is of importance for both theoretical and applied ecology. As changing seasons impact prey habitat selection and vegetation itself, it is important to understand how seasonality impacts microhabitat choice in optimal foragers and their prey. We follow...
Article
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Apex predators directly and indirectly in uence prey and predators at lower trophic positions (mesopredators). The lethal effect of apex predators on mesopredators is well documented, but they also could affect mesopredators in non-lethal ways. We investigated foraging decisions and perceived risk in the bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis), a small c...
Article
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Wild species use habitats that vary in risk across space and time. This risk can derive from natural predators and also from direct and indirect human pressures. A starving forager will often take risks that a less hungry forager would not. At a highly seasonal and human-modified site, we predicted that arboreal samango monkeys (Cercopithecus albog...
Article
In the absence of direct sunlight, nocturnal animals face sensory challenges different to those affecting their diurnal counterparts whilst foraging. Anecdotal observations have led to the general prediction that the auditory sensory mode is the most prominent for the bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis), a nocturnal, insectivorous canid. The present...
Article
Mammalian parental investment (i.e. care of descendant offspring) is largely biased towards maternal contributions due to the specific feeding needs of mammalian offspring; however, varying degrees of paternal investment have been reported in about 10% of all mammalian species. Within the order Carnivora, paternal contribution to rearing offspring...
Chapter
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This species is listed as Least Concern because it is common in conservation areas and occurs widely on farms throughout the assessment region. Bat-eared Foxes are occasionally persecuted mistakenly as damage-causing animals. However, these threats, while suspected to cause local declines periodically, are not expected to be affecting the populatio...
Chapter
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Within the assessment region there is no reason to change the status of this species from Least Concern. The Yellow Mongoose is relatively widespread, common and resilient, adaptable to change (whether anthropogenic or not), and is not facing any immediate threats to its distribution or population. Its distribution in Swaziland and Lesotho needs to...
Article
Despite the increased availability of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), the adoption of such information technology remains poor in developing countries. Free reference management software such as Zotero can significantly improve academic workflow, and thus its adoption by academics in peripheral nations could be a cost-effective method of supp...
Article
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Many animals rely on information from vocal signals to assess potential competitors and mates. For example, in primates, males use loud calls to assess rivals when the acoustic properties of the calls reliably indicate the condition or quality of the sender. Here, we investigate whether the loud calls of male geladas (Theropithecus gelada) function...
Article
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Tucked in the foothills of the Maluti-Drakensberg Mountains is the Qwaqwa campus of the University of the Free State. This is the home of the Afromontane Research Unit, a multidisciplinary flagship unit addressing a largely under-researched area in South Africa.
Chapter
A fundamental step in the management and conservation of wild species is advancing our understanding of how animals perceive and use their habitat. Spatial variation in risk either from natural predation or human disturbance generates a “landscape of fear” that can be measured and assessed using experimental patch approaches such as giving-up densi...
Article
Live-capture of animals is a widely used technique in ecological research, and previously trapped individuals often respond to traps with either attraction or avoidance. The effects of trapping on animals’ risk perception are not often studied, although nonlethal effects of risk can significantly influence animals’ behavior and distribution. We use...
Article
Measuring physiological stress reactions through the quantification of plasma cortisol often involves physical restraint, which acts as a stressor itself. Here, we present the validation of a non-invasive method for assessing adrenocortical activity as an indicator of stress in the bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis). By conducting an adrenocorticotr...
Data
These giving-up density experiments were run between May and August 2013 (Lajuma) and May and July 2014 (Hogsback).
Article
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Humans and human infrastructure are known to alter the relationship between predators and prey, typically by directly or indirectly shielding one of the species from the other. In addition to these overt changes to animals’ behavior, observers may have more subtle impacts on animals’ foraging decisions. However, the anthropogenic alteration of risk...
Article
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Complex societies are suggested to generate complex communication. However, tests of this hypothesis rarely go beyond a superficial examination of social and communicative complexity. For a systematic approach, we first have to define what we mean by complexity. What defines social complexity, and what defines communicative complexity? What aspects...
Article
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Male bat-eared foxes, Otocyon megalotis, are known to contribute extensively to parental care. Yet, the exact roles that males and females play in raising offspring remain relatively unexplored. Here, we describe interactions between adult foxes and their presumed offspring based on a pilot study on three family groups of a wild population in South...
Article
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Theory predicts that cheating individuals should alter their behaviour to avoid detection, yet empirical data for such 'deceptive' behaviour (and its putative consequence-punishment) is almost entirely absent from the literature. This dearth of evidence, particularly among primates, limits our understanding of the evolution of deception and punishm...
Article
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Primates are intensely social and exhibit extreme variation in social structure, making them particularly well suited for uncovering evolutionary connections between sociality and vocal complexity. Although comparative studies find a correlation between social and vocal complexity, the function of large vocal repertoires in more complex societies r...
Article
Identifying the cognitive challenges of sociality can be difficult because similar social interactions may be based on very different cognitive mechanisms. To better understand the cognitive mechanisms associated with a particular interaction, we investigated the social information that gelada, Theropithecus gelada, bachelors use to assess rival ma...
Article
Cercopithecines have a highly conserved social structure with strong female bonds and stable, maternally inherited linear dominance hierarchies. This system has been ascribed to the pervasiveness of female philopatry within the typical multi-male, multi-female social groups. We examined the relationship between female philopatry, dominance hierarch...
Article
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Epidemiological studies indicate that methamphetamine (MA) abuse poses a major challenge to health in the Western Cape. The objectives of this study were to retrospectively assess the trends, clinical characteristics and treatment demand of MA-related admissions to a psychiatric ward in this region. The clinical records of patients admitted to an a...
Article
Full-text available
Vigilance behaviour in gregarious species has been studied extensively, especially the relationship between individual vigilance and group size, which is often negative. Relatively little is known about the effect of conspecifics on vigilance in non-obligate social species or the influence of sociality itself on antipredator tactics. We investigate...
Article
The yellow mongoose Cynictis penicillata is a facultatively social species and provides an opportunity to study the evolution of social behaviour. We examined genetic structure, relatedness and helping behaviour in the yellow mongoose in natural habitat in the Kalahari Desert, where the species lives in small family groups of up to four individuals...
Data
Table 1 Acoustic description of call types used by the yellow mongoose. N refers to sample sizes. Subsets of these calls were used in discriminant function analyses, as described in the text
Article
Full-text available
We describe the vocal repertoire of a facultatively social carnivore, the yellow mongoose, Cynictis penicillata. Using a combination of close-range observations, recordings, and experiments with simulated predators, we were able to obtain clear descriptions of call structure and function for a wide range of calls used by this herpestid. The vocal r...
Article
It was an ordinary day at the office. My nose was a frozen spike of ice, rain pattered on my leather hat, and I'd momentarily lost my focal group. A gelada genteelly passed gas behind me and I became aware of the soft babbling of 250 monkeys on the way to their sleeping site. There was a big smile on my face. What an office! I feel more inspired by...
Article
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Objective: To examine the degree to which South African physicians use similar treatment guidelines in their prescription of antipsychotic medication. Method: Data on the prescriptions for Xhosa patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder were retrospectively examined to investigate differences between three catchment areas in the W...
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Interacting with my scientist peers can make me nervous.
Article
It's not the workload that worries me, it's the reverse culture shock.
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We investigated scent marking behaviour in the yellow mongoose Cynictis penicillata, focusing on a low-density population where all offspring dispersed upon reaching sexual maturity. Dominant males appeared to be the main territory defenders and demarcators, with offspring foraging and marking only near the territory cores. The cheek-marking rates...
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I'm on a field-research high.
Article
The audience effect has been shown in numerous group-living vertebrates but whether it is present in facultatively social species is unknown. We investigated the antipredator responses of the yellow mongoose, a mammal that dens in groups but primarily forages alone. To examine the effect that the social environment has on their communication, we pe...
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Article
The alarm vocalizations of the whistling rats Parotomys brantsii and P. littledalei were investigated at the Goegap Nature Reserve in the Northern Cape, South Africa, where they occur sympatrically. Parotomys brantsii's call is a single note vocalization, characterized by an upward frequency sweep and high frequency plateau with a dominant frequenc...
Article
The function of variation in single call duration and alarm calling bouts was investigated in Brants' whistling rat, Parotomys branisii, by means of playback experiments and video analyses of the vigilance displayed. Short calls are produced in hi.-h-risk situations, and long calls in low-risk encounters, but these calls apparently do not communica...
Article
It is predicted that differences in mammalian alarm call systems may be explained relative to the complexity of their habitat, with species inhabiting three-dimensional habitats classifying predator types (externally referential), and those living in two-dimensional environments indicating the level of risk (urgency-based). We tested this predictio...
Article
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Improved anti-predator protection has been postulated to be the primary advantage of sociality in the family Herpestidae. Therefore, the yellow mongoose, Cynictis penicillata, is considered an anomaly in the family because it may den socially with conspecifics, cooperating in the rearing of young and territory defence, but inevitably forages alone....

Questions

Questions (10)
Question
Hi everyone,
If I tried to run a structural equation model with three related dependent variables (one ordinal, one binomial, and one continuous), are 71 observations sufficient? I want to assess the effect of two categorical independent variables on the dependent variables, and would like to, ideally, control for experimental day (8 days of experiments, with varying number of trials per day).
Thanks so much!
Aliza
Question
I was wondering if a simple webcam (maybe a night-vision enabled one) connected via USB cable to a standard powerbank can work to record wildlife activity at a set point (say, a place I baited for small carnivores)? Seems a much cheaper option that camera traps/trail cameras. Does anybody have experience with this option, and can you recommend pros/cons of this approach?
Thanks!
Question
I have some Cuddleback camera traps and a problem with theft (the Reserve gets a lot of foot traffic). Does anyone have tips on cheaply discouraging thieves? I can't use heavy lockboxes as we have few sturdy trees around. 
Thanks! 
Question
I am looking for a portable speaker/ system that can play low-frequency, high amplitude animal vocalizations. I have the sounds on an iPod/ MP3 player and used to use a fairly large concert-type Bose speaker.
But are there smaller alternatives that won't distort deep, loud animal calls? I know that size matters for deep calls, such as baboon alarm barks.
Would, for example, smallish guitar amplifiers work (e.g., http://www.takealot.com/fender-passport-mini-portable-pa/PLID40640635)? If not, what other options can you recommend? This is for work in mountain regions, and I'm very keen on finding small, functional equipment!
Question
Hi everyone,
I'm designing a new course in which I want science (Honours) students to use science to help out the local community. In other words, they have to find out or brainstorm on issues that they know people experience in the area (whether it is challenges in primary education or water shortages), and figure out a way of actually addressing these problems through the application of science (probably biology). A kind of "community service" for scientists course.
Does anybody have advice or experience with running or taking part in similar courses? I'd love to hear about the pitfalls and things that could really work well, in your experience.
Thanks!
Aliza
Question
I am investigating the possibility of setting up den cameras for my bat-eared foxes, which would allow me to record their social interactions in the den itself. These are natural dens/ hollows, and I want to do this in the least invasive way possible. Ordinary camera traps work fine for comings and goings outside the den, but I'm curious about the interior...
What equipment and set-up could you recommend?
Thanks!

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Projects

Projects (9)
Project
1. Understand the human driven occupancy changes and also account for possible shitff from diurnal to nocturnal activities.
Project
A Continental Leader in African Mountain Research, with an immediate focus on the sustainable development of the Maloti-Drakensberg.
Project
The aim is to determine if the acoustic adaptation hypothesis applies to non-human primate species in high altitude habitats. We will test AAH using playback experiments in altitudes ranging from 1500 - 2000m a.s.l, where our target species normally inhabit in the natural environment.