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SA Hunters supports four Tukkie students’ academic studies on conservation

SA Hunters and Game Conservation conducts and facilitates relevant research and studies as part of our commitment to wildlife conservation. We are very proud to be associated with the research projects of four students of the University of Pretoria’s Eugene Marais Chair of Wildlife Management, Mammal Research Institute. The students recently presented their preliminary wildlife management research results for evaluation and feedback to faculty members and guests at the University.

A Master’s degree project by Cecilia Prinsloo on the extent and changes in the wildlife sector in Limpopo province specifically focuses on the subdivision of extensive wildlife areas in smaller camps, typically associated with intensification of game breeding. This research builds on a research study conducted by SA Hunters during 2017, on the rapid densification of game fences in the Limpopo bushveld between 2006 and 2015. SA Hunters’ conservation manager, Lizanne Nel, provided background information and advice to Cecilia for her study.

Lizanne Nel, SA Hunters Conservation Manager withCecilia Prinsloo who is doing a Master’s degree research project on the subdivision of extensive wildlife areas to smaller campsin Limpopo.

Cecilia’s study used remote sensing or satellite images from 2007, 2012 and 2017 to assess changes in fenced farm portions. Results confirmed the trend of rapid intensification in the landscape initially documented by the SA Hunters study. Based on the findings, Cecilia recommended among others, that regulating fences and creating conservancies are essential for sustainable wildlife conservation and that communities should be provided with information about the consequences of fences and their intensification in the landscape. Further studies are required in this field to refine the methodology to detect and monitor intensification of fences in the landscape as well as measures to reduce the negative impact of fences on free-ranging wildlife, some of which are already endangered, such as pangolins.
SA Hunters also facilitated three honours research projects in support of owl conservation. The students worked in collaboration with the owl conservation team of the Springbok Branch of SA Hunters on the East Rand to assess factors affecting owl populations in an urban and semi-rural area.

Caroline Hannweg researched the factors affecting owl occupancy in the east of Ekurhuleni; Mengjing Wei’s research project focussed on the diet of an owl community in an agricultural area; and Tosca Vanroy investigated the species richness of rodent population in an agricultural area. These research projects were launched in support of the owl conservation efforts of Springbok Branch that started as early as 2007 after studies indicated that in two years, 300 marsh owls (Asio capensis), 155 African grass owls (Tyto capensis), 94 Western barn owls (Tyto alba) and 6 spotted-eagle owls (Bubo africanus) had been killed in collisions with vehicles along the N17 near Devon, Gauteng. The reason for the high number of owls killed on this road is because trucks that transport grain to the mill, spill grain on the road surface that attracts rodents, which are a major food source of owls. Owls are nocturnal hunters that get dazzled by the headlights and are consequently run over.

Over the last ten years, Springbok Branch initiated various initiatives to reduce owl deaths on the N17 and to promote owl conservation in the area. To better quantify their conservation successes and assist in providing factual and fundamental information to conserve owls in their community, it was decided to approach Dr. Mark Keith and his students from the Eugene Marais Chair of Wildlife Management, Mammal Research Institute.

Tosca Vanroy, Caroline Hannweg, and Mengjing Wei with Eric Enslinand Theo Boonzaaier of the Springbok Branch’s owl conservation team.

The three students worked very closely with the Springbok Branch’s owl conservation team, and it is evident that both groups are learning a lot from each other and about the owl population in the area. The conservation manager of SA Hunters promotes the collaboration between their members and researchers as it has been proven that ordinary citizens can provide valuable operational support and reliable data to support research. Additionally, members of SA Hunters gain knowledge and insights into factors affecting wildlife populations in their area. This empowers members to affect change and actions to the benefit of wildlife conservation.

Springbok Branch will proceed on this path of research collaboration and will provide financial assistance to Caroline Hannweg to continue her Masters’ degree on this topic in 2019.

Article by Lizanne Nel and Magda Naude

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