Range Analysis and Terrain Preference of Adult Southern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) in a South African Private Game Reserve: Insights into Carrying Capacity and Future Management
OPEN PloS one | 14 Sep 2016
S Thompson, T Avent and LS Doughty
The Southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is a threatened species, central to the tourism appeal of private game reserves in South Africa. Privately owned reserves in South Africa tend to be smaller than government run reserves such as Kruger National Park. Because of their relatively small size and the often heterogeneous nature of the landscape private game reserve managers benefit from detailed knowledge of white rhinoceros terrain selection preferences, which can be assessed from their ranging behaviours. We collected adult and sub-adult white rhinoceros distribution data over a 15 month period, calculating individual range size using kernel density estimation analysis within a GIS. From this, terrain selectivity was calculated using 50% and 95% kernels to extract terrain composition values. Jacob’s correction of the Ivlev’s selectivity index was subsequently applied to the terrain composition of each individual to identify trends in selectivity. Results reveal that adult males hold exclusive territories considerably smaller than those found in previous work conducted in “open” or large reserves. Similarly, results for the size of male versus female territories were also not in keeping with those from previous field studies, with males, rather than females, having the larger territory requirement. Terrain selection for both genders and age classes (adult and sub-adult) showed a strong preference for open grassland and avoidance of hill slope and riparian terrains. This research reveals white rhinoceros terrain selection preferences and how they influence range requirements in small, closed reserves. We conclude that this knowledge will be valuable in future white rhinoceros conservation management in small private game reserves, particularly in decisions surrounding removal of surplus individuals or augmentation of existing populations, calculation of reserve carrying capacity and future private reserve acquisition.
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