Caprivi Carnivore Project
Photos Gallery for Hyaena Research
December 2010, PCT Update
30 April 2010
News from the field
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism have renewed my research permit for another year. This year will be spent concentrating on human wildlife conflict (HWC) in the east and west Caprivi and trans-boundary movement in the west Caprivi.
I recently moved from my tent at Mukolo where I have spent the past year and a half to Sijwa, which is the field base of IRDNC. Sijwa is located on the Kwando River approximately 8 km south of Kongola. It was bought from the community and will be developed into a training base for IRDNC. It is also an accommodation base for visiting NGO s to the region.
Thank you so much to IRDNC for giving me this fabulous opportunity. It was most timely especially as my tent would not have survived until the end of this wet season.
The Kwando Clan
The Kwando Clan has moved from Den Site 3 to Den Site 2, a distance of approximately of 850 metres. This was discovered when Dave Ward and Raymond Peters from WWF and me walked from the Malombe Road to Den site 3 and found it abandoned and dilapidated. We proceeded directly to Den Site 2 and found it surrounded by fresh spoor and newly repaired entrance holes. Three dens were discovered in 2009 through investigating the clumping of location data transmitted by the GSM collar of CCC-1, a female spotted hyaena. At that time Den sites 1 and 2 were in a state of disrepair and Den site 3 was in full use.
Spotted hyaenas regularly change dens and will reuse the same dens after various periods of absence. Long-term monitoring will reveal how many dens are used by this particular clan of hyaenas.
The reason for our trip to the den was to place a remote camera near one of the most used entrances to get photographs of the cubs so that their numbers and ages could be identified. Spotted hyaenas move their cubs to a communal den at a young age. The dens have a wide entrance, but rapidly narrow so that adult hyaenas and other predators are unable to enter and kill small cubs.
Dave and Raymond managed to get the camera tied to a nearby tree and set the angle to photograph the den entrance and the immediate surrounds. The remote camera was programmed to take a photograph every minute during periods of activity and was left for four and a half days.
On returning we discovered that 136 photographs had been taken. All the collared and marked hyaenas were recorded visiting the den at some stage. Right towards the end of the photographic session, a very small cub popped out of the hole. A series of photos showed two cubs and one photo showed the possibility of three cubs, although this was not very clear.
Both the unmarked large female and CCC-3 were photographed standing at the entrance looking into the hole more than any other hyaenas so at this point I am assuming they are the mothers. On one occasion a leopard visited the den and is caught on camera pointedly looking in the direction of the entrance. Another photo showed a lioness lying close by the den in the shade of a tree. The camera has now been reset to take a photo every fifteen seconds during periods of activity and will be checked only after a period of two weeks to keep disturbance to a minimum.
The photographs from the remote camera have confirmed that the marked hyaenas without collars are without a doubt part of the Kwando Clan. No additional unmarked hyaenas have been captured on camera at the den other than the known dominant female that was also photographed at the baiting tree. This leaves the adult numbers and sex structure of the Kwando Clan unchanged since the 2009 report. The clan, however, has expanded with the confirmed addition of the minimum of three cubs of eight weeks old, most likely the offspring of the dominant female (unmarked) because of their excellent and fat condition as well as CCC-3. Thank you so much to Mary Weldele and Laurence Frank from the
University of California for identifying the age of the cubs and for their input.
Kwando Clan Home Range
The home range size was previously stated as 483.73 km2. Spotted hyaenas have strict home range boundaries, but occasionally do wander into neighbouring clan territory. Often this has to do with food availability. In the case of the Kwando Core Area where large food items are occasionally available like hippo or elephants carcasses then far more hyaenas are observed feeding on these carcasses then actually live in the immediate area. Some outlier GPS locations have been removed from the original home range calculation for the time being for the above reasons. This has resulted in a dramatic decrease of the home range size to 338.76 km2. Some two months of location data for two hyaenas and four
months of location data for one hyaena is missing from this calculation due to transmission difficulties. This is likely to affect the home range size once again. Thank you so much to Ryan Hood for contributing his time and GIS skills for data analysis.
Preparations for field work are underway. Thanks to Nick Buys from Veterinary Services and Ronald Mkandawire from Meat Co, a drum of blood has been obtained from the abattoir in Katima. This will be used for making scent trails leading up to baiting sites when it is time to start capturing hyaenas.
Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC)
I have collected carnivore related HWC data from the Event books of the Mashi Conservancy. Thank you so much to Alfred Thunapu for taking the time to assist me with the Event book archives. Thank you also to the Mashi Game Guards and the Natural Resource Monitoring Group for access to this information. I have used data for the whole of 2008 and 2009 for the time being. The Game Guards keep their current event books with them at all times so information for 2010 was unavailable.
Each game guard patrols a block measuring 2 km by 2 km and records predator data along with reports of problem animals killing or disturbing livestock. Each block, of which the Mashi Conservancy has eight, are thoroughly patrolled once a month. The perception in the East Caprivi is that spotted hyaenas are by far the biggest culprits in livestock predation
In the Mashi Conservancy during of 2008 and 2009, the majority of livestock losses were due to both lions and spotted hyaenas with 44 losses attributed to lions and 47 attributed to spotted hyaenas. Losses totaling 26 animals were due to wild dogs, leopards and brown hyaenas. It is likely that the brown hyaenas were scavenging as they rarely kill livestock.
It is worth mentioning that brown hyaenas were recorded as Wolf jackals in the event books and were observed on one occasion to be eating maize. The figures combine both cattle and goats although hyaenas did kill more goats (33) than cattle (14).
The 47 head of livestock killed by spotted hyaenas occurred in 35 incidences during the two year period, but additional data is required to establish whether there is a seasonal trend in livestock predation. Single animals were mostly taken with only one report of a loss of four goats. Out of 29 villages reporting livestock losses during the 2008/2009 period, 25 had four or less losses during the entire two year period. Four villages, i.e. Tulenoso, Manyandero, Mulanga and Kashibi had losses totaling 7 each for the first two villages and 11 and 14 respectively for the other two. With the exception of Tulenoso, the majority of the losses reported at these hotspots were caused by spotted hyaenas.
Additional information like actual number of livestock at each village, husbandry methods, stock owner vigilance, water availability and kraal construction needs to be taken into account before any conclusions can be drawn from this. In addition it is unknown at this point whether spotted hyaenas originate from the protected areas of the East Caprivi or live within livestock areas (conservancies) and whether proximity to protected areas is a factor.
It does appear that spotted hyaena predation on livestock is an ongoing ever present problem when compared to predation by all the other large carnivore species.
Observations of large carnivores in the Caprivi and Kavango Regions continue to trickle in. Nearly 200 new entries have been received. This data is in the process of being entered into a basic database. Over time I will incorporate game guard and MET observations as well as old Carnivore Atlas data for the Caprivi Region. There has been much excitement over the group of lions that appear to have moved into the Kwando Core Area. From a number of reports, it appears that the pride consists of approximately ten individuals with at least two adult males. Cubs have also been observed. It has been
many years since lions have settled in the west Caprivi so this is a welcome development. I will attempt to present the data in a form similar to the old Atlas Report structure in future monthly news.
For additional information please contact:
Caprivi Carnivore Project
PO Box 8027
Tel: +264 (0)81 129 4060