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Publications

Are camera traps a reliable method for estimating activitypatterns? A case study comparing technologies forestimating brown hyaena activity curves

Despite camera traps and radio tags being frequently used in ecology to estimate wildlife activity patterns, few studies have directly compared the two methods. To address this research gap we compared activity patterns derived from simultaneously deployed camera traps and GPS collars on brown hyaenas. Our results showed that although brown hyaenas were active during the 00:00 to 06:00 period, they were mainly so at den sites, which reflected as lower levels of activity derived by GPS collar methods. Our results illustrate the value of using combination of techniques to disentangle complex behavioural activity patterns.

Rehabilitated cheetahs exhibit similar prey selection behaviour to their wild counterparts: A case study of prey selection by rehabilitated cheetah released into an enclosed reserve in north-central Namibia

AfriCat has been rehabilitating and releasing cheetahs onto Okonjima Nature Reserve (ONR) near Otjiwarongo, Namibia, from 2000-2018. We analysed kill data for rehabilitated cheetahs on ONR to determine if captive-raised cheetahs exhibit similar prey selection to their wild counterparts. Results suggest captive-raised cheetahs can hunt successfully, although all cheetahs in ONR required supplemental feeding for variable periods immediately after release. Once they were successfully hunting, rehabilitated cheetahs demonstrated similar prey selection behaviours to wild cheetahs. This study builds on previous studies into cheetah prey-selection behaviour, and can provide insight into choosing release sites for cheetahs, creating cheetah coalitions in captivity before release, as well as managing released cheetahs living with humans and other predators in smaller, fenced reserves

An Investigation into the Intestinal parasitic load and its effects on the body condition score of the white rhino

A commensal relationship of low clinical significance usually occurs between wildlife and parasites. It is important to properly manage the well-being and care of rhinoceroses once placed in an island-bound area, and this includes from a parasitological perspective. The aim of this study is to determine whether the intestinal parasitic load, in terms of faecal egg count, has an effect on the body condition score of the white rhinoceroses. Analysis of faecal egg counts was carried out with the McMaster method on samples collected from various rhinoceroses in an undisclosed location, and their body condition scores were also determined. This was conducted in the wet and the dry season.

Socioecology of a high-density brown hyaena population within an enclosed reserve

Our latest research paper has been published in the journal Mammal Research. The paper looks at the socio-ecology of brown hyaena in an enclosed reserve, and found Okonjima is home to six clans with an average home range size of just 37km2. A total of 92% of Okonjima is occupied as brown hyaena home range, meaning options for dispersing young hyaenas may be limited and such individuals may represent ideal candidates for translocation into other reserves as part of metapopulation management schemes.

First confirmed record of infanticide for wild brown hyaena

Our new paper regarding the first confirmed record of infanticide in brown hyaena is out now in African Journal of Ecology. Monitoring the natal den belonging to ‘OHB12’ and her two young cubs with a live feed camera, we were able to capture the moment another brown hyaena approached the burrow in which the cubs were resting in and kill them. The adult then took one dead cub away, presumably to eat. This is the first time such a behaviour has been observed in wild brown hyaena.

Leopard Density Estimation within an Enclosed Reserve, Namibia Using Spatially Explicit Capture-Recapture Models

Due to continuous levels of human–wildlife conflict, habitat loss and fragmentation, the establishment of protected and enclosed reserves constitute a solid foundation for the long-term survival of threatened species. Because species living in enclosed systems often behave differently compared to their free-roaming counterparts, research is forming an important and essential tool to understand their ecology and behavior. For a population to be sustainable in a closed, fenced system, effective conservation and management strategies need to be developed on the basis of robust population estimates. We found that the study area, a protected nature reserve, is harbouring the highest leopard density in Namibia to date, highlighting that small, enclosed reserves can play a vital role for the survival of threatened species in the future.

Evidence of a high-density brown hyena population within an enclosed reserve: the role of fenced systems in conservation

Small, enclosed reserves are now common across Africa, and their conservation importance as wildlife refuges is increasingly acknowledged. Whilst such reserves represent areas safe from human persecution, they can also become threats themselves when the natural processes of emigration and immigration are prohibited. As a result, wildlife populations residing in enclosed reserves require careful management to safeguard their long-term persistence. As successful conservation management relies on precise population estimates, we estimated brown hyena density within a 180-km2 enclosed reserve in north-central Namibia.

Deslorelin Reproduction Supplement

The GnRH analogue deslorelin, in long-acting biocompatible implants, was used as a contraceptive in 31 cheetahs (13 females and 18 males), 21 African wild dogs (15 females and 6 males), 10 lionesses and four leopards (three females and one male). A dose of 12 or 15 mg deslorelin was administered to lions, whereas 6 mg deslorelin was administered to the other species. Monitoring consisted of observations, measurement of plasma progesterone and
testosterone concentrations, vaginal cytology and evaluation of semen and sex organs. Deslorelin induced contraception in lionesses for 12-18 months, and in female cheetahs and
leopards for a minimum of 12 months after treatment.

Control of reproductive and sex related behaviours in exotic wild carnivores with the GnRH analogue deslorelin: prelimenary observations...

The GnRH analogue deslorelin, in long-acting implants, was used in an attempt to temporarily control reproduction or aggression in wild carnivores in southern Africa and the USA. In the southern African study, 6mg deslorelin was administered to cheetahs (eight females, four males), one female leopard and wild dogs (six females, one male), housed in groups and 12mg deslorelin was administered to two lionesses. None of the animals became pregnant after deslorelin administration apart from one wild dog that was mated at the initial treatment-induced oestrus. 

Feline Coronavirus in African Cheetah Populations

Management of self-sustaining populations of cheetahs has been problematic, as evidenced by continuing poor health and declining numbers. Infectious disease agents, including feline coronavirus (FCoV), continue to be causes of concern for these populations because of potential health problems and restrictions on moving breeding animals. The 2005 international meeting of the Association of Zoos and Aquaria (AZA) Cheetah Species Survival Plan (SSP) Health Management Group recommended broader surveillance for FCoV infection be conducted among captive populations to 1) determine the prevalence of infection, 2) identify persistently infected animals and 3) assess the effects of FCoV on health.

Comparison of high-definition Oscillometric and direct Arterial blood pressure measurement in anesthetized Cheetahs (acinonyx jubatus)

Blood pressure measurement reveals important insights into the health of conscious and
anesthetized individuals. This is of particular interest in cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), which in captivity are known to suffer from chronic diseases that may be associated with hypertension and which often require
immobilization for transport or veterinary treatment. Invasive testing methods are considered the gold standard
but are not practical in many settings.

Feline Coronavirus in African Cheetah Laparoscopic removal of a large abdominal foreign body granuloma using single incision laparoscopic surgery (SILS) and extraction bag in a cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

This case presents a thorn-induced abdominal foreign
body granuloma that was removed with single incision
laparoscopic surgery and an extraction bag. An 11-yearold female cheetah presented for routine laparoscopic
ovariectomy. Abdominal palpation detected a midabdominal mass. Differential diagnoses were neoplasia and foreign body. Laparoscopic exploration of the peritoneal cavity revealed an omentalised mass, which was successfully removed with the aid of bipolar electrocoagulation.

How hot does a cheetah get?

Cheetah are the fastest terrestrial mammals. During a hunt, cheetah metabolism and heat
production increases by more than fifty-fold. Treadmill studies (Taylor and Rowntree 1973)
conclude that neither evaporative nor non-evaporative heat loss increase during a run, so all metabolic heat is stored. If cheetah indeed do use this heat-storage strategy, the duration of a sprint (and hence hunting success) would be determined by the amount of heat the cheetah can store without thermal compromise. We measured body temperature and activity every 5 min, using biologging, in six free-living cheetah in Namibia. We test whether free-living cheetah employed heat storage during hunts, and whether hunts were thermally limited.

OCULAR ABNORMALITIES OF CHEETAHS EXAMINED AT AFRICAT

Over the past years a number of cheetahs in Namibia have been examined ophthalmologically. Equipment used
during this examination included a slit lamp biomicroscope, indirect and direct ophthalmoscope, Schiotz
tonometer, fluorescein stain and gonioscopy lens. The animals were anaesthetised for the annual health checks
at Africat in Namibia, or were examined at the time of presentation for blindness. A high incidence of ocular
trauma ranging from mild scarring of the lids and/or cornea, through to mature cataracts, severe endophthalmitis
and phthisis bulbi was found. It is theorised that this is as a result of the cheetah being forced to hunt in bushencroached areas – a habitat not ideally suited to the hunting methods of the cheetah. Blindness or severe
visual impairment spells death for a wild cheetah, and could thus impact greatly on the sustainability of the wild
cheetah population of Namibia.