Being based on Okonjima Nature Reserve, a private reserve dedicated to conserving wildlife, AfriCat is perfectly situated to conduct ecological research focusing on a variety of rare and endangered species. Additionally, our captive ambassador large cats allow us to collaborate with international teams of veterinarians to conduct research on various aspects of captive carnivore health, ultimately finding solutions to improve the health and welfare status of captive carnivores throughout the world.
Large carnivore ecology in enclosed reserves:
Across southern Africa there is a growing trend towards using wildlife-proof fencing to separate wildlife and human communities. However, whenever a species is constrained within an enclosed area, their ecology alters, and human intervention, in the form of conservation management actions, is required to ensure the long-term persistence of these populations. For example, fences stop the natural processes of immigration and emigration which can lead to inbreeding and, at an extreme level, local extinctions. As Okonjima Nature Reserve is an enclosed reserve, one component of AfriCat’s research focuses on understanding the ecology of leopard and brown hyaenas living within Okonjima, with the ultimate aim of producing informed, sustainable metapopulation management guidelines for these species.
Given the intense levels of illegal trafficking ground pangolins are currently experiencing, now, more than ever, we need baseline ecological data on this little-known species in order to ensure conservation actions are effective. Shy, elusive and rarely seen; very little ecological data on ground pangolins currently exist and AfriCat is working to fill this void by conducting research on their spatial ecology, diet and habitat preferences. Research results will be used to create management guidelines for pangolin conservation across Namibia and aid in policy making.
The impact of climate change on aardvark:
Previous research in the Kalahari has shown aardvarks to be negatively impacted by climate change. Droughts are known to result in reduced plant growth and associated crashes in ant and termite populations. During droughts aardvarks are unable to consume enough ants and termites to meet their energetic requirements and try and compensate for this by becoming active during the day and basking to try and maintain internal body temperatures. AfriCat is examining the potential impacts on climate change in a higher rainfall area than the Kalahari to examine how aardvarks might be impacted across their range.
Captive large carnivore health:
The cheetah and leopard ambassadors residing in the AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre have been included in long-term research on captive carnivore health. International collaborations between veterinarians have focused on a variety of projects including the long-term health monitoring and immune-competence of captive cheetahs, reversibility of deslorelin implants in males and the impact of dental intervention for improving the well-being of captive carnivores. By participating in such research AfriCat hopes to help make advancements in the health and welfare of captive large carnivores on a global scale.