PhD on the competitive relationships
The competitive relationships existing between large carnivores in terms of spatial distribution, habitat use and prey species composition and abundances remains a challenge for managing enclosed reserves.
Should one species out-compete another it may lead to the loss of diversity within the reserve but also exert an imbalanced pressure on vulnerable prey species.
In 2016 Selati Game Reserve in collaboration with the University of Rhodes embarked on a study to determine how the current carnivore regime interacts between species and the influence they exert on their prey species.
Understanding the dynamics of maintaining a balanced ecosystem within enclosed reserves requires an understanding of the diversity of species, population sizes and its dynamics.
Leopard, despite its relative large size, are notoriously difficult to count through the use of traditional counting methods. In 2015 Selati Game Reserve launched an intensive effort in an attempt to understand the leopard population within the reserve and the relationship that exists between other carnivores and prey species.
A baited camera trap technique is currently being conducted which aims to give insight into the population size, dynamics and reproductive successes of the leopard population within the Reserve.
Elephant Impact Assessment
Elephant are known keystone species in the savannah biome, constantly changing and altering their environment. Because the Selati Game Reserve is a closed system, the impact of the elephant population needs to be carefully monitored and managed to ensure that they don’t alter the environment to the detriment of other species.
In early 2017 the Selati Game Reserve began to monitor and assess the impact that the elephant have on the vegetation across the reserve. The information gathered will complement the data and analysis that we obtain from the annual veld survey carried out by the Agricultural Research Council’s Animal Production Institute.
The combined knowledge will be used to support the reserve’s management decisions regarding the number of animals and how best to protect and enhance the biodiversity of the ecosystem.
Studies completed by students from University of South Wales:
In conjunction with SanParks, we are involved in assisting with the management of the cheetah meta-population across South Africa. In 2015 we augmented the population on the reserve with animals received from the Endangered Wildlife Trust. The research team is actively involved in monitoring the fragile population of cheetah on the reserve.
White and Black Rhino Monitoring
The Selati Game Reserve has come under a lot of pressure to protect its rhino population following the dramatic upswing in rhino horn poaching that has taken place across the country over the last five years.
The research team is tasked with the continual and intensive monitoring of the population of white and black rhinoceros using camera traps and radio tracking. The camera trap data is key to the management of our security programme and it is collated and reported to the reserve management on a regular basis.
Rare Antelope Reintroduction
Tsessebe and Sable antelope are regarded as low density species and are rarely found in reserves with large carnivores. Small groups of these antelope species have recently been released on to the Selati Game Reserve. The reintroduction of these species into the wild is key to our biodiversity and conservation goals.
The wellbeing and success of these releases depends on the species’ ability to successfully raise offspring. Regular monitoring of the Tsessebe and Sable antelope enables us to assess the progress of these “pioneer” groups.
The reserve takes its name from the Great Selati River which traverses the northern sector of the reserve from east to west. Water quality is affected by agricultural activities upstream and by mining activity in the general vicinity.
In 2014 the Selati Research Initiative in partnership with the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) began to assess the quality of water at various points along the river. By taking measurements at different stations along the river we can see whether there are any significant changes in the aquatic biodiversity both inside and outside the reserve.
From this information we are able to ascertain the general health of the river system and we can assess the viability of the system to self-sustain the diversity of aquatic life within the reserve.