Carnivore projects

Carnivore distribution and diet

The primary objective of the Carnivore Project is to collect data on carnivore activity on the Mogalakwena River Reserve. The secondary objective is to look into the diet of all species through collecting scat and analyzing these in the lab. The MRC is particularly interested in larger species like leopard (Panthera pardus) and brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea). However, smaller species like black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas), small and large-spotted genet (Genetta sp.) and caracal (Caracal caracal) are included in the study. Carnivore sign detection surveys are done by walking roads and popular game trails to detect carnivore activity, focusing on tracks, faeces, latrines, scratch marks, scent markings, den sites and kills. Scat is collected, processed and catalogued for future dietary analysis. In conjunction with other research organisations we are also compiling a hair sample reference system of potential prey animals.

 

Competition between African civet and black-backed jackal

The African civet (Civettictis civetta) and the black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) are widely distributed through Africa. Both species are very adaptable and opportunistic omnivores and they consume considerable amounts of fruit depending on seasonal availability. Civets also eat millipedes, rodents, scorpions, insects and carrion. Jackals show a great overlap in diet, but might additionally consume birds and small mammals. The primary objective of the civet and jackal project is to collect data on behaviour, diet, and distribution in order to look at competition between these two species. Data will be collected through sign detection surveys done by walking roads and popular game trails to detect activity, focusing on tracks, faeces, latrines and scent markings. Dietary analyses will involve the collection of scat from known latrine sites or found during sign surveys. The collected faeces are analysed in the laboratory to determine prey types and quantity. Food availability could be quantified to investigate how these two competitors manage to partition their resources.

African civet latrine use

Little to nothing is known about the behaviour and ecology of African civets (Civettictis civetta), because of their secretive and nocturnal lifestyle. At the MRC we study their distribution and diet since 2014. An exciting new aspect of our project is to look at the behaviour of civets at their latrine sites. Civets use communal latrines to defecate and these so called civetries are used for territory marking and information exchange, and are a valuable source of information for researchers. Not only do civetries supply us with scat that can be analyzed for diet, but by placing camera traps at civetries, we learn a lot about the behaviour of civets. We are interested in knowing how many civets use one latrine, which other species utilize these sites and what sort of behaviour the civets show while visiting the latrines. Furthermore, because civets can be identified individually, we can also study the movement patterns of individuals. This project has many opportunities for students that are interested in behaviour of nocturnal creatures.