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South Africa: Studying & protecting carnivores and other species in the fynbos mountains through citizen science

Goal: Studying & protecting carnivores and other species in the fynbos mountains of South Africa's Cape floral kingdom through citizen science

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Matthias Hammer
added 3 research items
The fynbos biome of South Africa is a biodiversity hotspot renowned for its very high plant species richness, endemic birds and the presence of the Cape mountain leopard (Panthera pardus). Biodiversity monitoring across a range of faunal taxa was conducted in mountain fynbos habitat in the context of determining prey availability for leopard, caracal (Caracal caracal) and African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica). Studies were conducted, with the help of international volunteers recruited by Biosphere Expeditions, at Blue Hill Nature Reserve, a recently established protected area where land management changed from agriculture to biodiversity conservation in 2009. We examined prey availability at a spatial and temporal scale, using transects, Sherman traps and camera trap monitoring. Mammal density across all three measures suggests low mammal abundance and thus food availability for the predators in the fynbos ecosystem, which is known to have low carrying capacity. Camera trap photos from fixed monitoring points were used to examine the recovery of medium to large mammal species at the study site. Trends were positive for most common species (with the exception of African wildcat), with significant increases in standardised capture rate indices reported for caracal, greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) and grey rhebok (Pelea capreolus). Transects to monitor wildlife also fed into a biome-wide survey to assess the status of the endangered Hottentot buttonquail (Turnix hottentottus), a bird endemic to the fynbos. We also conducted the first bat survey undertaken at Blue Hill Nature Reserve using Anabat Express recording devices and report the presence of five bat species. Opsomming Die fynbos bioom van Suid Afrika is wel bekend vir sy uitstekende biodiversiteit, met n groot aantal plante sorte, inheemse voels, en ook die Kaapse Berg Luiperd (Panthera pardus). Ons het biodiversiteit monitering onderneem oor n groot verskeidenheid fauna vanaf klein tot groot om te bepaal die beskikbaarheid van prooi vir luiperd, rooikat (Caracal caracal) en wildekat (Felis silvestris lybica). Hierdie studier was deur Biosphere Expeditions onderneem, wie vrywillige werkers gevind het om die monitering op die Blue Hill Natuur Reservaat en omgewings te implementeer. Blue Hill Natuur Reservaat is n nuwe beskermde gebied geïmplementeer in 2009 wat tevore n landbou gebied was. Ons het prooi beskikbaarheid ondersoek op n ruimtelik en temporale skaal met gebruik van transects, Sherman-traps en automatiese kameras. Die aantal soogdiere oor al drie van die statistieke was baie laag, wat beteken min beskikbaarheid van kos vir die roofdiere in die fynbos sisteem, al hoewel daar alreeds kennis daarvan is. Automaties kameras op konstante moniteering plekke was gebruik om te sien of daar herstel was van die aantal gemiddelde tot groot soogdiere nommers op Blue Hill. Oor die algemeen (behalwe wildekat) was die aantal fotos meer oor tyd, wat aandei herstel van die wild. Daar was beduidende verhogings vir rooikat, kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) en vaal rhebok (Pelea capreolus). Transects om wild oor die hele bioom te moniteer om die populasie van die bedreigde, inheemse Kaapse kwarteltjie (Turnix hottentotus) te ondervind was ook deur die expedisie gehelp. Die expedisie het ook die eerste vlermuis opmeeting onderneem met gebruik van Anabat recording devices, wat vyf spesies gevind het.
Abstract The fynbos biome of South Africa is a biodiversity hotspot renowned for its very high plant species richness, endemic birds and the presence of the Cape mountain leopard, a small race of African leopard Panthera pardus ssp pardus. Biodiversity monitoring across a range of faunal and floral taxa was conducted in mountain fynbos habitat. Studies were conducted for two weeks in October 2017, with the help of international citizen scientists recruited by Biosphere Expeditions and based at Blue Hill Nature Reserve (Western Cape). In this report we provide a status update on the leopards of Blue Hill Nature Reserve for the period 2016-2020 through photo records. Camera-trapping confirmed the presence of male leopard ‘Strider’, resident since 2015 until early 2019. It also captured a female, suspected of being accompanied by a nearly fully-grown cub. A new male and female have been recorded since mid 2019 (Sugarbird Valley pair). Caracal Caracal caracal and African wildcat Felis lybica continue to be present, as do most other potential prey species (e.g. klipspringer Oreotragus oreotragus, Cape hare Lepus capensis). An extended mammal monitoring activity was trialled (mammal mapping). We also examine the abundance of small mammals in relation to a fire event in the fynbos. Trapping of small mammals using Sherman traps was undertaken, with data compared between 2016 and 2017. Capture rates were highest in the unburnt sections of fynbos. Honeybush Cyclopia intermedia is an important wild harvested plant for the tea industry that is found on Blue Hill Nature Reserve. We set up monitoring plots for 400 plants, which were measured, health status checked and flower buds counted. We examined various correlates of potential yield as baseline monitoring for further studies on this important economic crop. Opsomming Die fynbos bioom van Suid Afrika is `n biodiversiteit ‘kern area’ bekend vir baie hoë plant spesie diversiteit, endemiese voëls, en die teenwoordigheid van die Kaapse berg luiperd (Panthera pardus). Die monitering van biodiversiteit oor `n reeks van fauna taksa was uitgevoer in berg-fynbos habitat. Studies was uitgevoer oor twee weke in Oktober 2017, met behulp vanaf internasionale burgerlike wetenskaplikes, gewerf deur die ‘Biosphere Expeditions’ en gebasseer by Blue Hill Natuur Reservaat (Wes-Kaap). In hierdie verslag verskaf ons 'n meer onlangse status van die luiperde in en rondom Blue Hill Natuur Reservaat vir die periode van 2016 tot 2020 deur gebruik van foto rekords. Met die gebruik van lokval kameras kon ons die aanwesigheid van 'n mannetjie, genaamd 'Strider', vasstel vanaf 2015 tot vroeg 2019. 'n Wyfie, wat vermoedelik deur 'n redelik volgroeide welpie vergesel was, was ook afgeneem. 'n Nuwe mannetjie en wyfie was aangeteken sedert middel 2019 (Sugarbird Valley paar). Rooikat Caracal caracal en vaalboskat Felis lybica is steeds teenwoordig, en so ook ander potensiële prooi spesies (bv. Klipspringer Oreotragus oreotragus, vlakhaas Lepus capensis). 'n Uitgebreide soogdier moniteringsaktiviteit was ook bewerkstellig (soogdier kartering). Ons ondersoek ook die getalle van klein soogdier spesies in verband met 'n vuur wat plaasgevind het in die fynbos. Klein soogdiere was gevang deur die gebruik van Sherman lokvalle, en data was vergelyk tussen 2016 en 2017. Vangsyfers was die hoogste in die ongebrande gedeeltes van die fynbos. Heuningbos (Cyclopia intermedia), wat 'n belangrike wild geoeste plant vir die tee industrie is, word gevind op Blue Hill Natuur Reservaat. Moniteringsplotte vir 400 plante was opgestel. Afmetings was geneem,gesondheidstatus geskat, en blomknoppe getel. Ons het verskeie korrelate van potensiale produksie ondersoek as basislyn monitoring vir verdere studies op hierdie ekonomies belangrike gewas.
Abstract The fynbos biome of South Africa is a biodiversity hotspot renowned for its very high plant species richness, endemic birds and the presence of the Cape mountain leopard (Panthera pardus). Biodiversity monitoring across a range of faunal taxa was conducted in mountain fynbos habitat, together with a survey of tortoises into the arid karoo biome to the north. Studies were conducted for two weeks in October 2016, with the help of international citizen scientsts recruited by Biosphere Expeditions and based at Blue Hill Nature Reserve (Western Cape). Camera-trapping during 2016 and early 2017 confirmed the presence of male leopard ‘Strider’, resident since 2015. It also captured a new female, suspected of being accompanied by a nearly fully-grown cub. Caracal and African wildcat were also recorded several times. Live-trapping efforts during the expedition were unsuccessful. A historic capture of a female of the endangered and little known Hottentot buttonquail (Turnix hottentottus), a terrestrial bird endemic to the fynbos, was achieved by the expedition. Body metrics to instigate a telemetry study on aspects of the habits and life history of this species were taken. Further efforts to trap the species after the expedition were unsuccessful. Trapping of small mammals using Sherman traps was undertaken for two nights; further trapping was prevented by cold weather. Species captured were striped field mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio), Cape elephant shrew (Elephantulus edwardii), African pygmy mouse (Mus minutoides) and Namaqua rock mouse (Aethomys namaquensis), the last a novel species for the study site. Capture rates were significantly higher during morning trap checks, suggesting strong nocturnal behaviour. Bat surveys using Anabat and Echo Meter Touch recording devices revealed the presence of eight species: Egyptian free-tailed bat (Tadarida aegyptiaca), African pipistrelle (Pipistrellus hesperidus), Cape serotine (Neoromicia capensis), Cape horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus capensis), Geoffroy’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus clivosus), Hottentot serotine (Eptesicus hottentotus), Zulu pipistrelle/Aloe bat (Neoromicia zuluensis) and Egyptian slit-faced bat (Nycteris thebaica). Tortoise mortalities associated with electrified and non-electrified fences were also studied and related to fence structure (mesh or strand) and open veld transects. All fence types had significantly higher tortoise mortalities than open veld transects with leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) mortalities significantly higher along electric fences than non-electric fences, accounting for 56% of leopard tortoise mortalities. Angulate tortoise (Chersina angulata) mortalities were significantly higher along mesh fences than strand fences, but did not differ between electric and non-electric fences. Fencing strategies and their threat to tortoises are discussed and mitigation strategies suggested. Opsomming Die fynbos bioom van Suid Afrika is `n biodiversiteit ‘kern area’ bekend vir baie hoë plant spesie diversiteit, endemiese voëls, en die teenwoordigheid van die Kaapse berg luiperd (Panthera pardus). Die monitering van biodiversiteit oor `n reeks van fauna taksa was uitgevoer in berg-fynbos habitat, gesamentlik met `n opname van skilpaaie in die droeë karoo bioom na die noorde. Studies was uitgevoer oor twee weke in Oktober 2016, met behulp vanaf internasionale burgerlike wetenskaplikes, gewerf deur die ‘Biosphere Expeditions’ en gebasseer by Blue Hill Natuur Reservaat (Wes-Kaap). Die gebruik van afgeleë kamera’s gedurende 2016 en vroeg 2017, het die teenwoordigheid van `n mannetjie luiperd ‘Strider’ bevestig wat sedert 2015 die area bewoon. Die kamera’s het ook `n nuwe wyfie afgeneem, waarvan vermoed word dat sy deur `n byna volgroeide welpie vergesel was. Die gebruik van vanghokke tydens die ekspedisie om lewende individue te vang, was onsuksesvol. ‘n Wyfie van die bedreigde en onbekende Kaapse kwarteltjie (Turnix hottentottus), ‘n grondvoël endemies aan die fynbos, was gevang tydens die ekspedisie; `n daad wat tot dusver onsuksesvol was. Liggaamsafmetings was geneem as die beginpunt van `n telemetriese studie op die aspekte van die gedrag en lewensgeskiedenis van hierdie spesie. Verdere pogings na die ekspedisie om nog individue van dié spesie te vang was onsuksesvol. Die vasvang van klein soogdiere met behulp van Sherman lokvalle was oor twee nagte uitgevoer; verdere pogings was verhoed deur koue weersomstandighede. Spesies wat gevang was sluit in die gestreepte veldmuis (Rhabdomys pumilio), Kaapse klipklaasneus (Elephantulus edwardii), dwergmuis (Mus minutoides) en Namakwalandse klipmuis (Aethomys namaquensis), die nuutste spesie aangeteken vir die studie area. Aansienlik meer individue was teenwoordig in lokvalle tydens inspeksie in die oggend, wat sterk nagtelike gedrag aandui. Opnames met die gebruik van ‘Anabat’ en ‘Echo Meter Touch’ klankopname toestelle het die teenwoordigheid van agt vlermuis spesies bevestig: Egiptiese losstertvlermuis (Tadarida aegyptiaca), Kuhl-vlermuis (Pipistrellus hesperidus), Kaapse dakvlermuis (Neoromicia capensis), Kaapse saalneusvlermuis (Rhinolophus capensis), Geoffroy se saalneusvlermuis (Rhinolophus clivosus), langstert-dakvlermuis (Eptesicus hottentotus), aalwyndakvlermuis (Neoromicia zuluensis) en gewone spleetneusvlerrnuis (Nycteris thebaica). Skilpadsterftes in verband met geëlektrifiseerde en nie-geëlektrifiseerde heinings was ook bestudeer en verwant aan die struktuur van die heining (maas of strand) en oop veld lynopnames. Alle heining-tipes het aansienlike hoër skilpadsterftes gehad as die oop veld lynopnames, met bergskilpad-(Stigmochelys pardalis) sterftes aansienlik hoër met geëlektrifiseerde heinings as met nie-geëlektrifiseerde heinings en was verantwoordelik vir 56% van bergskilpadsterftes. Rooipens skilpad- (Chersina angulate) sterftes was aansienlik hoër by maas heinings as by strand heinings, maar het nie verskil tussen geëlektrifiseerde en nie-geëlektrifiseerde heinings nie. Beheining strategieë en hul bedreiging teenoor skilpaaie word bespreek en versagtende strategieë voorgestel.
Matthias Hammer
added a project goal
Studying & protecting carnivores and other species in the fynbos mountains of South Africa's Cape floral kingdom through citizen science