Brown Hyaena Research
RESEARCH IN THE OKONJIMA NATURE RESERVE
This research project is investigating the inter- and intraspecific relationship between different carnivore species in the 200 km2 Okonjima Nature Reserve, an enclosed conservation area. Study animals include cheetah Acinonyx jubatus , leopard Panthera pardus, and brown hyaena (Parahyaena brunnea). Interactions between predators, both within and between species are studied with the aid of VHF-telemetry, GPS-collars and camera traps. The study will assess the extent of intraguild predation and determine the size of home ranges and territories for individual animals within the reserve and how they relate to those of other predators. In addition the study will provide valuable information on the success of carnivore rehabilitation in the reserve.
To effectively manage carnivores within a closed reserve, a thorough understanding of their altered ecology is needed to make informed management decisions.
Thus, this research is aiming to assess the interactions between different large carnivore species that are sharing a limited space, to determine the degree of intraguild predation among the sympatric carnivores in the nature reserve and which predator avoidance strategies are implied by lower order carnivores such as cheetahs in an area of high leopard abundance.
BROWN HYAENA PROJECT
Providing safe havens for wild populations of animals, such as the Okonjima Nature Reserve does, also presents challenges for the correct management of the protected wildlife within.
Whilst bringing the advantages of safety, freedom from persecution, the ability to breed, provision of diverse prey etc., so too are simultaneous threats which arise from the prevention of natural immigration/emigration. Population sizes increase beyond natural carrying capacity, intensification of competition with other species for limited resources within the confined area, and a constrained gene pool are some of the challenges which arise from the carnivore populations being enclosed in one area.
As a consequence of such perils, it is imperative that these carnivore populations are managed appropriately to ensure that they sustain themselves healthily for their ultimate survival.
The Brown Hyaena population within the Okonjima Nature Reserve is one such group. It is a naturally occurring body, and since the 2010 erection of the predator-proof fencing around the reserve, little governance has been done to purposefully manage them.
Persecuted by farmers in the surrounding lands, as real or perceived threats to their livestock, they are fully in the middle of the Human-Wildlife Conflict zone! Hence the Okonjima Nature Reserve is essential for the protection and long term survival of wild populations.
The Brown Hyaena Research Project was launched in 2018 as a comprehensive scheme to observe the Brown Hyaenas, collect data, analyze the information, make recommendations and take action.
Using GPS collars to collect high-resolution spatial data and camera traps to monitor them across the reserve, the project will estimate population size, social structure, home range size and activity patterns – which may well differ to free-ranging populations.
Given the pressures on the Brown Hyaena, local management of the species is not the only aim of this project. Similarly enclosed, protected areas across southern Africa are becoming the trend in the growing wildlife industry on private lands, and it is paramount that real data is at the core of effective National conservation strategies.