The foraging ecology of reintroduced African wild dog in small protected areas

16 May 2018

Vogel, John; Somers, Michael; Venter, Jan

Restoring large predators to small confined areas (<400km2) is inherently complex and therefore any data on the foraging behaviour and top-down influences hold significant value for the conservation and reintroduction planning of the species. Conservation efforts are increasingly applied to small or fragmented landscapes. However, it is unclear what the effect of these small areas have on processes such as foraging behaviour as these spatial constraints may reduce the likelihood of innate predator-prey dynamics. We investigated African wild dog Lycoan pictus foraging patterns on five small fenced protected areas in South Africa. We report on the diet composition, prey preferences, and potential influence of pack size and fences on the diet of African wild dogs. Data from 553 kills collected by direct observations at the five sample sites were analysed. Sixteen species of prey were recorded. A narrow dietary niche breadth was determined. Impala Aepyceros melampus and nyala Tragelaphus angasii collectively, form 75% of diet, and 67% of edible biomass. However, only nyala were significantly selected for. The mean wild dog pack sizes in our sample sites were relatively smaller than those frequently encountered in larger systems. We found that larger wild dog pack sizes did not select for larger prey. Contrary to studies investigating the influence of hard boundaries on smaller protected areas, the upward bias caused by fences on prey mass selection was inconsistent across sample sites. By characterising African wild dog diet on smaller protected areas, our results are suggestive of potential top-down influences that should be investigated by future studies. The results add to a growing body of literature that aims to assist in the reintroduction planning of endangered carnivore species.

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