Amorello Safari Park Forms Part of Carnivore Research Project

The research team: Winston Pretorious (BSc UNIVEN, left), Beatriz Rosa (BSc UL, center) and Gonçalo Curveira-Santos (MSc UL, right)

The research team:  Winston Pretorious (BSc UNIVEN, left), Beatriz Rosa (BSc UL, center) and Gonçalo Curveira-Santos (MSc UL, right)

During the second half of 2017, Amorello Safari Park formed part of an exciting research project between University of Lisbon (UL, Portugal) and University of Venda (UNIVEN, Limpopo, South Africa). Researchers are looking to discover more about the carnivores and predators, big and small in and around Phinda Private Game Reserve. Because Amorello shares a border with Phinda and boasts 600 hectares of unspoiled natural bush, the property was an obvious choice to form part of this exciting project. Aside from the use of the property, Amorello also provided researchers with quad bikes to get to the hard to reach areas of the farm.

The preliminary results have been very interesting and now researchers have to wade through the extensive data including hundreds of thousands of photographs to learn more about carnivores movements outside of Phinda.
Gonçalo Curveira-Santos of the University of Lisbon took the time to share their preliminary findings from the last 6 months research. This is what he had to say.

The second half of the year of 2017 was filled with excitement and white flashes as a team of researchers investigates carnivore assemblages across northern KwaZulu-Natal landscapes to discover which carnivores persist beyond reserve boundaries? What happens when lions are not present? Can carnivores tolerate human presence?
These are some of the questions a collaborative project between the University of Lisbon (UL, Portugal) and Venda (UNIVEN, South Africa) are attempting to answer by studying carnivore species and their prey across key landscapes that characterise South African management/conservation setting.

Using Phinda Private Game Reserve and surrounding farm and tribal authority lands as a study model, the team formed by Gonçalo Curveira-Santos, Beatriz Rosa (UL), Winston Pretorius and Terrance Mapote (UNIVEN), under Dr. Lourens Swanepoel
(UNIVEN) supervision conducted large-scale predator and prey surveys spanning from the middle of July to the end of November.
Gonçalo Curveira-Santos headed up the camera trapping part of the research. This

Honey badger – Mellivora capensis

exciting sampling technique allows scientists to investigate the habits of elusive and mostly nocturnal carnivore species, that otherwise remain unseen. This was achieved by setting up stationary cameras trigged by the animals’ heat and movement within its sensory field. In total 196 camera traps were set up for this study, covering an area over 450 km2. 50 of these in the farmlands South of Phinda, spanning from the extensive livestock/game areas that border the N2 all the way to Hluhluwe and up to the game farms and lodges along the R22. A couple of cameras fell within the boundary of Amorello Safari Park which provided for some entertaining and surprising results!

Greater Canerat – Thryonomys swinderianus

Cameras were able to capture photos of genet, cane rat and a large honey badger on Amorello’s property as well as many other elusive species that may only be discovered when all of the 300 000 photos have been carefully analysed for species ID.

These first results are exciting and elucidate the potential value of farmlands for carnivore conservation. On behalf of each member of this

Large-spotted genet – Genetta tigrina

research team and everyone who might benefit from this research in the future, we thank Norman Baggaley and the rest of the team at Amorello Safari Park for their collaboration with our research in providing us with access to their land.

Should you wish to find out more about this project, you can contact Gonçalo Curveira-Santos at goncalo-cs@hotmail.com.

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