Ecology and population dynamics of black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) in the Karoo

Liaan Minnie

Human-carnivore conflict is a contentious issue in South Africa that has a severe impact on the livestock industry (stock losses close to USD 1.5 million have been cited). The major predator is the black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas). Farmers respond to this predation by culling jackals. These hunting pressures are unevenly distributed between farms and reserves and have been shown to induce source-sink dynamics in carnivore populations. Here we will test if the assumptions for source-sink population dynamics hold for jackal subpopulations on reserves and bordering farms. We hypothesise that reserves will act as source populations (optimal resources; low anthropogenic mortality) that will export individuals to farms which act as sink populations (sub-optimal resources; high anthropogenic mortality which creates holes in the territorial system and facilitates the influx of individuals from reserves). We will investigate this by evaluating two criteria: (1) the populations form distinct breeding subpopulations linked by migration; (2) the subpopulations have different demographic fates. This will be assessed by focussing on three thrust areas: (1) Dispersal between subpopulations will be assessed via DNA analysis to determine migration direction; (2) the demographic structure of subpopulations will be assessed to determine population growth rate; (3) Resource selection will be used to assess habitat quality. Differences in habitat quality often results in the formation of source (high quality) and sink (low quality) habitats.