<

Change the world

Centre for African Conservation Ecology

ACE has been tasked by the national Department of Environmental Affairs with the responsibility of consolidating, updating and expanding the various published databases on the location and characteristics of the small elephant populations in South Africa. This information, which is crucial for policy development, management and conservation of elephant in South Africa is currently scattered in various publications and seriously outdated. Accordingly, a team from ACE will be tracking down the relevant information, with a planned deliverable date of mid 2017.   

Please send all the relevant information to sajumbosurvey@gmail.com.

As part of his PhD on the landscape ecology of apex predators, Kristoffer Everatt (pictured here with his daughter, Eden) is investigating how free grazing cattle and reduced prey densities influence the feeding ecology and space use of lions. To do this he is GPS tracking lion prides that have access to varying densities of wild prey and cattle in and around the Limpopo National Park, Mozambique.

He is currently collaring lions for the first time in this region of Mozambique. The collaring process is challenging due to the remoteness of the region where only a small proportion of the home ranges of each of the selected lion prides can be accessed by roads. This means that to capture the lions Kristoffer and his team are limited in their bait site options and therefore have to wait patiently for the lions to pass through these few accessible areas.

An additional challenge is that the lions in this region are often persecuted and therefore wary of humans. After 11 nights of baiting, the first pride finally came in one night only to immediately run away when they saw Kristoffer's research vehicle. Kris then altered the protocol and now does the baiting and darting from within a canvas tent camouflaged with branches with the vehicle parked far away from the site. This system seems to be working and he has now caught and collared lions from two of the seven prides.

In addition to using the GPS data for his thesis, Kris, working closely with the Limpopo National Park rangers, is using this detailed information on lion space use to direct snare removal and poison removal in areas that will most benefit lion conservation in the park.

 

ACE graduate
20/04/2016

Congratulations to ACE's most recent doctoral graduate, Liaan Minnie (right) pictured here with his promoter, Prof Graham Kerley. Liaan's PhD explored the effects of lethal management on jackal population responses.

 

 

The National "Non-Detrimental Finding" Workshop for the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) listing of the blue duiker was held in ACE on 31 March 2016. This workshop, organised by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, included scientists, conservation managers and landowners. The outcomes of the workshop will be published by SANBI.

 

 

 

 

Through sweltering Karoo temperatures (up to 41 degrees C), a team of nine ACE researchers marched across mountain plateaus, scrambled down mountain slopes, and trekked across alluvial plains, all with the aim of quantifying aardvark burrow characteristics and their distribution across the landscape. A total of 1907 aardvark digs were sampled across approximately 30 km of transects in the Samara Private Game Reserve near Graaff Reinet, generating what is arguably the largest database of aardvark digs and their features. The transect width was maintained using 5 m reeds (see picture) carried by each member of the survey team. These data will allow Stephanie to estimate aardvark digging frequency across a range of landscapes, providing insights into how this keystone species varies in its impacts at this scale.

 

It is with great sadness that news was received of the passing of James (Jim) Michael Feely (17 January 1934 - 18 October 2015). Jim started his career in nature conservation in 1955, when he was employed by the then Natal Parks Board, to work in Zululand, and he was one of the team working with Ian Player on white rhino conservation and the development of the wilderness concept. He later became an archaeological and anthropological researcher of high standing. He also made significant contributions in the field of environmental history. Prior to his official retirement some years ago he was employed as an ecologist in the Scientific Services division of the Eastern Cape Provincial Conservation Department.  Jim became an NMMU Research Associate, affiliated with the Centre for African Conservation Ecology, in 2011, and continued in that role until his passing, publishing a number of papers (with one still in press) while into his 80s. He was irrepressible in his search for new information and he was interested in a wide range of research topics. He will be remembered by all who knew him as a passionate and dedicated conservationist and researcher, and his passing is a great loss for our country.

The SANParks Times recently reported on the collaborative research that members of ACE have been conducting with the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (Click the image below for the full article)

For more information on the Carnegie Airborne Observatory please see http://cao.carnegiescience.edu and https://www.facebook.com/CarnegieAirborneObservatory

 

The Zoo484 (Ecology of African Wildlife) students spent last week at Samara Private Game Reserve for this course, together with Prof Graham Kerley. The visit comprises lectures and field experiences, and the group were fortunate to encounter the cheetah known as Sabella with a freshly-killed kudu cow. Sabella is highly habituated and allowed the class to pose for a photo while she carried on feeding. Experiences such as this drive home the lessons of the module in a unique way.

 

 

The VIIth European Congress of Mammalogy, held this week in Stockholm,  provided an opportunity for ACE members to present their science to colleagues from across the world. Pictured here are (from left: Dr Matt Hayward (Research Associate, from Bangor University, Wales), Liza Le Roux (PhD student), Joris Cromsigt (Research Associate, from Swedish Agricultural University, Umea) and Marietjie Landman (Postdoc)). See the Congress website (http://www.zoologi.su.se/ecm7/)  for the programme and their contributions.

The findings of a status survey of the Cape Mountain Zebra have been released in the form of an ACE report (#63) by Halszka Hrabar and Graham Kerley.  Given the endemic status of the Cape Mountain Zebra, this comprises a global status report. The survey showed that the global population of Cape Mountain Zebra is now at least 4 791 individuals, spread over no less than 75 subpopulations. This is a gratifying recovery from the population nadir of less than 80 individuals in the 1950s, and the previous ACE survey (ACE Report #59) which in 2009 provided a minimum estimate of 2790 Cape Mountain Zebra. There has been an annual increase of 9.2% in zebra numbers since 2009.

The populations are spread between state reserves (17 populations, and 69% of the global population) and private land (56 populations), emphasizing the role of private landowners in establishing new populations of Cape Mountain Zebra.

The report highlights a number of concerns, including the lack of mixing of the original three relict populations, the large number of small, isolated sub-populations, particularly on private land, and hybridization with plains zebra. So while numbers of Cape Mountain Zebra are apparently growing comfortably, the subspecies is at increasing risk of genetic threats. These need to be addressed urgently, as identified in the report.

ACE thanks Wildlife Ranching South Africa for supporting this survey and all the CMZ  managers and landowners for providing data.

The Short Learning Programme (SLP) on “The Environment and the Eastern Cape” this year attracted eight American students, these coming from universities across the USA and with a variety of study interests.  The focus of this programme is the exceptional  diversity of environmental patterns in the Eastern Cape, and how these provide a diversity of challenges and opportunities in terms of sustainable management. The students were also able to learn about cutting edge solutions to these challenges and opportunities that have been developed in the Eastern Cape.  The programme is delivered by staff and students from ACE, and includes field visits to Karoo fossil sites, private nature reserves, National Parks, urban conservation initiatives and coastal resorts.  

Pictured here with Graham Kerley (far right) and Nokubonga Mgqatsa (6th from left) are the SLP students enjoying the landscape perspective from the lip of the escarpment.

The Zoological Society of Southern Africa (ZSSA) recently conferred a unique set of awards on ACE, this through the awarding of the ZSSA Gold Medal to Prof Graham Kerley, and the ZSSA Stevenson Hamilton Award to Dr André Boshoff, on the occasion of the 37th Congress of ZSSA in Grahamstown.  The ZSSA is the learned society representing the field of zoology in southern Africa. This is the first time that these two awards have been simultaneously awarded to individuals from the same institution. It is also the first time that either of these awards have been given to zoologists at the NMMU (or the old UPE or PE Technikon).

The criteria for the ZSSA Gold Medal award comprise “outstanding achievements in Zoology in southern Africa” (See: http://zssa.co.za/?page_id=95#sthash.r5D8wMH9.dpuf), and this award reflects Graham’s contribution to research, teaching and engagement in the field of zoology. One such aspect for which he is recognised is his role as the founding Director of ACE.

The ZSSA Stevenson Hamilton Award is awarded to Dr André Boshoff for his outstanding role in raising awareness about the field of zoology. In addition to his work on raptors, waterbirds and vultures, André is recognised for his lead role in making historical information about the mammals of South Africa available (see:  http://ace.nmmu.ac.za/Historical-Incidence-of-the-Larger-Mammals) .

These awards clearly demonstrate that members of ACE are not only making a real contribution, but that this is being recognised (see also: http://herald.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=0VQC182OBKS2&linkid=aec58e44-2acf-4325-ae9b-5d723ed0f819&pdaffid=KHOqIFYzI3hPuzHsdEaXLQ%3d%3d ). This is also excellent recognition for the NMMU. Congratulations to Graham and André. 

The recently published  article "Temporal shifts in activity of prey following large predator reintroduction" by Tambling et al.  (Behavioural Ecology And Sociobiology) has been showcased on the Springer Animal Sciences facebook page – follow this link:  

www.facebook.com/pages/Springer-Animal-Sciences/1450678515186976?ref=hi

 

The Conservation Biology class of the Zoology Honours program visited Samara Private Game Reserve as part of their course requirements. While there, they were able to view conservation in action thanks to the provision of a game viewer from Samara management. The time spent in the reserve consisted of discussions centring on key conservation issues while spare time was used for game viewing and experiencing first-hand, the breeding initiatives that play an important role in South African conservation. Time spent in the field is always informative and provides an important practical aspect to the learning experience.

 

 

We welcome Anton Schmidt of the NMMU Department of Nature Conservation (George Campus) and Victoria Goodall of the NMMU Department of Statistics (Summerstand Campus) as members of ACE.

Anton has a MSc in Wildlife Management (cum laude) from the University of Pretoria and is currently busy with his PhD on the factors influencing ecological thresholds in mosaic thicket. Anton brings a strong understanding of wildlife management to ACE.

Victoria has a PhD in Statistics from the University of the Witwatersrand and has a keen interest in establishing a statistical framework for analysing and interpreting datasets obtained by GPS tracking on the movements and ecological relationships of large mammalian herbivores. 

An added benefit of both Anton and Victoria joining ACE will be the strengthening of the relationships within NMMU. Thus Anton’s membership of ACE will help build collaborations between researchers from the Port Elizabeth and George campuses of NMMU, particularly in the field of conservation and wildlife sciences, while Victoria’s membership of ACE will strengthen the connections between the field of conservation and statistics. We look forward to Anton and Victoria contributing to ACE’s objectives and trust that they will find this rewarding and fruitful. Welcome to the team.

 

A seminal study on the decline of the world’s largest herbivores , the drivers of these declines, and their implications was published in Science Advances on 1 May,  and warns of the impending collapse of this special group of animals. This study (see advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/4/e1400103) comprises a comprehensive review of the status of the terrestrial herbivores with a bodymass greater than 100 kg across the world, and was undertaken by an international group of ecologists, led by William Ripple, distinguished professor, Oregon State University. Three of the co-authors are affiliated with ACE/NMMU, these being Prof Graham Kerley (Director of ACE), Kristoffer Everatt (PhD student within ACE) and Dr Matt Hayward (a Research Associate, previously a postdoc with ACE and now based at Bangor University).

 

This study has attracted global interest, as it highlights not just the sobering reality of just how threatened these large herbivores are, but also identifies some key patterns, such as the relatively poor status of research on large herbivores in developing countries, as well as the fact that all except one of these threatened large herbivores are found in developing countries. Thus, there is a clear need to invest more research in developing countries if we are serious about conserving these large herbivores. An additional message from this study is that the implications of the loss of these herbivores in terms of ecosystem function are profound, with cascading effects for humans in terms of declines in food security, increased risk of disease and collapse of ecotourism. 

We are incredibly happy to announce that four ACE masters students successfully completed their Master's degrees and graduated this past week at the Nelson Mandela Metropoliatn University.

Congratulations to:

 

Megan de Jager (MSc Geography) - An analysis of soil properties associated with badland and gulley erosion in rural catchements of the Ngqushwa district, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

 

 

Jana du Toit (MSc Zoology) - Changes in the diet resource use by elephant Loxodonta africana due to changes in resource availability in the Addo Elephant National Park.

 

 

Kate Southey (MSc Zoology) -  Approaches in the prioritization of areas for biodiversity conservation: a case study from the Western Cape of South Africa.

 

 

We at ACE, would like to make special mention of Jessica Leaver, who graduated Cum Laude

 

Jessica Leaver (MSc Zoology - Cum Laude) - Opions for Eland: A multiscale assessment of anitpredatory responses of a vulnerable prey species to their dominant predator in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

 

 

We wish all of this years ACE graduates every success for the future.

 

 

The Centre for African Conservation and Ecology welcomes two new NRF/DST interns, Ms Andiswa Somtsewu  and Ms Elzane Fouche. Andiswa graduated with a BSc from Walter Sisulu University, while Elzane has a BSc(Hons) from NMMU.  They represent the third cohort of NRF/DST interns hosted by ACE, the objective of the internships are to provide experiential opportunities to allow interns to better compete for employment.  Andiswa and Elzane will be exposed to  and participate in a variety of research activities, ranging from laboratory analysis and identification of diet samples of megaherbivores and carnivores (pictured here) to undertaking fieldwork in “big five” habitat. This exposure to a variety of rigorous and cutting edge research will serve as a steep learning curve for them. Through this process Elzane and Andiswa will also provide valuable assistance on these projects. This hosting of interns is part of ACE’s contribution to capacity building and research. We wish Andiswa and Elzane the best of luck for a fruitful year!

                           

ACE PhD students, Kristoffer Everatt and Leah Andresen are undertaking research on the landscape ecology of apex predators across the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Their recent survey of the Banhine National Park, Mozambique, yielded evidence of the presence of cheetah, lion and African wild dog, as well as elephants. These findings are unexpected and significant because cheetah and wild dog were thought to have been absent from the area since Mozambique’s civil war in the 1970’s. Kris and Leah have collected genetic data which will be used to determine if these predator populations are a result of recent immigration or are pre-war relics. Similarly, elephant were thought to be absent from the park due to poaching, and little was known on the status of lions. The presence of these flagship species also bodes well for the motivation for the development of the Banhine National Park as a tourism destination, thereby contributing to local economic development. An ACE report documenting these preliminary findings has been prepared for the governing authorities in Mozambique and can be found on the ACE website.

ACE PhD student, Liaan Minnie, is currently working at the Mammal Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Białowieża, Poland. This is part of a collaborative project between ACE and the MRI, and is motivated by the leading role that the MRI plays in canid genetic research.  Liaan is analysing the genetics of jackal on reserves and neighbouring farms in the Eastern Cape, and this forms part of his PhD studies. This is also an opportunity for ACE students to learn more about different ecosystems and ecological drivers, as shown here by Liaan enjoying the snow in the Białowieża Forest.

PhD graduates with an excellent academic and publication record and who have graduated within the last 5 years, and who are interested in undertaking research on either:

1) the risks inherent in the current reserve network for the conservation of large mammals based on population requirements.

2) using historical records of the incidence of large mammals in southern Africa to explore patterns of extinction and distribution patterns of this diverse group of mammals, using modern spatial analytical tools. See: http://ace.nmmu.ac.za/Project-Opportunities-for-Students/Historical-mammal-records-Postdoctoral-Research-Op  

Should approach the director (graham.kerley@nmmu.ac.za) before 10 January

The Centre for African Conservation Ecology, together with Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine (LECA) of the Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France, hosted the 4th DNA Metabarcoding School during November, this as part of a joint Protea South Africa/France project. The objective of the school was to train participants in the techniques to collect samples and extract DNA for next generation sequencing, as well as to analyse and interpret the data (sequence reads) that are produced. The focus was on the use of environmental DNA to describe the diet and gut microflora (the microbiome) of herbivores, but many other applications were presented. The school was held at Samara Private Game Reserve (see www.samara.co.za), which not only provided considerable support for the school through substantial discounts, but also served as an excellent venue, as delegates could gain firsthand experience in the field-based aspects of this work. Delegates came from all over the world, including Ethiopia, the Cameroon, South Africa, the USA, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Czechoslovakia and India.

 

The course content was broadly based on the objectives and emerging data from the joint NMMU/LECA Protea project describing the diet of all the large herbivores in the Addo Elephant National Park – and the reality of extracting and then analysing these enormous data sets. Presentations on the significance of  diet studies were provided by Prof Graham Kerley and analysing diet data by  Dr Marietjie Landman of ACE, on DNA extraction techniques by Dr Pierre Taberlet (LECA – pictured at DNA extraction bench), bioinformatics  by Drs Eric Coissac and Frederic Boyer (both LECA) and on the microbiome of Addo herbivores by Aurelie Bonin (LECA). These approaches are revolutionizing our ability to ask detailed ecological questions at a previously unheard of scale, ranging from reconstructing of diets of extinct animals, describing ancient ecosystems; to estimating the occurrence of parasites from faecal samples or the occurrence of animals and plants from soil DNA. Developing the skills and capacity to use these opportunities is therefore critically important for South Africa and the NMMU.

 

The MSc opportunity forms part of a long-term research program investigating the re-introduction of apex predators in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

For more information and how to apply, click on the link below

MSc opportunity

Congratulations to ACE students (from left) Liaan Minnie (Best PhD Presentation), Tiffany Bell (Best MSc Presentation) and Amarein Gerber (Best Student Poster) who excelled at the recent Annual Symposium of the South African Wildlife Management Association, and collectively won all the awards for student presentations. 

Amarein is an Honours student and her winning poster (Can black-backed jackal regulate invasive warthog through neonatal predation?) is in the background.  Liaan’s talk was on “Reproductive flexibility contributes to the resilience of black-backed jackal populations in the face of anthropogenic mortality”, while Tiffany’s was on “Understanding the drivers of bat (Chiroptera) activity patterns relevant to wind turbines: conflicts between growing energy demands, supply of renewable energy and bat conservation”.

 

 

ACE added a new Ford EcoSport to it's fleet of research vehicles, with support from Eastern Cape Motors

The Annual ACE Report 2013 has been approved by the ACE Advisory Board and is now available for download from the ACE website

Click here to download the 2013 Annual ACE Report

ACE Masters student Crystal Coetzer (pictured here with Professor Henry Pollack,  scientific advisor to Al Gore and The Climate Reality Project) benefited from Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Training (http://climaterealityproject.org/) from 12- 14 March in Johannesburg. The participants were trained on how to educate and inspire the public, build networks to implement solutions and create meaningful action in their communities, with the focus on climate change. They also learnt to effectively engage audiences and accurately communicate the science behind climate change.  

3-7 November 2014 (arrival on 2 November, departure on 8 November)

 

The fourth metabarcoding spring school is dedicated to DNA-based diet analysis.

 

The Protea project  team from Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine, Grenoble, France (led by Pierre Taberlet) and the ACE (led by Graham Kerley, successfully completed the final season’s worth of DNA sampling and extraction for the project dealing with the application of DNA metabarcoding to describing the diet of the large herbivores (from hare to elephant) in the Addo Elephant National Park. The next step is to sequence the DNA and then process the emerging data set. Pictured here is Aurélie BONIN of the Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine, processing the last stage of DNA extraction in the lab in Addo.

Mr Stephen Theodosiou (right), Dealer Principal of Eastern Cape Motors and representing the Mazda Wildlife Fund, hands over the keys of the new Mazda BT50 4x4 Twincab research vehicle to Prof Thoko Mayekiso, Acting Vice-Chancellor of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Looking on is Prof Andrew Leitch (left), Dean of the Faculty of Science and (seated) Prof Graham Kerley, Director of the Centre for African Conservation Ecology.

Dr  Pierre Taberlet of the Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine (LECA), at the Univ. Joseph Fourier, in Grenoble, France presented a seminar at the Centre for African Conservation Ecology on “DNA metabarcoding, environmental DNA and biodiversity” on 27 May 2013. Pierre was visiting ACE as part of a Protea South Africa/France funded collaborative project using DNA metabarcoding to describe and quantify the diet of 15 large herbivore species (hare-elephant) in the Addo Elephant National Park. The first sampling session was successfully concluded in May, and the next session is scheduled for July/August.

The Zoology Honours Conservation Biology class spent a week on Samara Private Game Reserve with Prof Graham Kerley, where they participated in lectures and field activities, the latter using the game viewing vehicle kindly provided by Samara. Field activities included viewing of vulnerable species such as cheetah, which breed successfully on Samara, as shown by the presence of two (wild) cheetah cubs in the photograph of part of the class. Other real examples of conservation issues they encountered included the successful conservation of rhinos, the poaching of rhinos and the reality of invasive species as a threat to biodiversity. These sorts of opportunities are invaluable as they allow the students to better integrate the theory and reality of conservation biology.

ACE graduates
22/04/2013

Congratulations to the students who graduted at NMMU on Friday 19 April namely Marietjie Landman, Adolph Nyamugama, Hayley Clements, Shaun Welman and Douglas Makin. Everyone at ACE is very proud of these students!

Prof Vincent Kakembo, Professor in the Geosciences department, has been promoted to Full Professor. Well done Vincent, we are all proud of you. Vincent will present his inaugural lecture in September so look out for this auspicious event!

Congratulations to Marietjie Landman who recently completed her Doctorate as well as three masters students namely Shaun Welman, Hayley Clements and Douglas Makin who recently completed their Masters degrees cum laude.

The Centre for African Conservation Ecology's Honours students for this year have an exciting new range of projects that will be carried out this year. These students presented their proposals to the NMMU zoology department two weeks ago and we look forward to seeing the final product of each project at the end of the year.

A book titled Historical Incidence of the Larger Land Mammals in the broader Western and Northern Cape was officially launched at NMMU last week. This A4- sized 535-page volume, written by the legendary zoologist and historian CJ Skead and published by the Centre for African Conservation Ecology at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, is a companion to the 2007 volume titled Historical Incidence of the Larger Land Mammals in the broader Eastern Cape, also authored by CJ Skead.

Related Information