Herbivore projects

Herbivore water usage

The savannah has a wide range of highly specialized plants and animals that are in balance with each other. More than 40 different species of herbivores utilize the savannas of Africa. Each species has its own food preference and foraging strategy, which enables up to 16 different species of browsers and grazers to coexist in one area. For example, different species browse or graze at different heights, during different times of the day, or from different tree and grass species, thereby minimising competition for the same food source.

Water is important for all living species and is the single limiting factor in many environments. In the savannah biome, species have adapted to the dry climate. The wet season (November till April) supplies a variable amount of rain, but during the dry season little to no rain falls, resulting in the land drying up quickly. Normally animals need to anticipate these changes in water supply and often migrate to wetter areas, but how do herbivores utilize water in a small reserve where migration is not an option? The Mogalakwena River Reserve has several water bodies and students will investigate how these are being utilized. Study options include studying the differences between species, seasons, and time of the day.

Large herbivore counts

The reliable counting of game on a reserve is one of the cornerstones of effective wildlife management.
This project aims to gather information on the density and distribution of large herbivore species on the Mogalakwena River Reserve. The challenge is to find a method that is reliable in the densely vegetated bushveld on the reserve. The most common methods do not seem to work for all species and alternatives are required. The project compares data across seasons to monitor the relative abundance of all the species on the reserves, and also to monitor any changes in population numbers of the different species.

There is no single comprehensive counting technique that is suitable for all the possible types of animals and their habitats. Students will be involved in the development and implementation of counting techniques suitable for the local landscape.