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Take a Survey Dining Room Oral Presentations | Moderated Discussion Parallel C - Dining Room
05 Nov 2019 11:00 AM - 01:00 PM (Africa/Johannesburg) Switch to local time
20191105T1100 20191105T1300 Africa/Johannesburg Session 7: Threatened Species Conservation I Dining Room The Conservation Symposium secretariat@conservationsymposium.com
Species in peril – depends on who you talk to and where you are
11:00 AM - 11:15 AM2019/11/05 09:00:00 UTC - 2019/11/05 09:15:00 UTC

Lions have undergone a reduction of approximately 43% in the last 21 years. On a continental scale, elephants have declined at 8% per annum, and giraffe populations have declined approximately 36 – 40% over three generations. Even though all African range states are in agreement on the ultimate goal, the current debate on how to achieve this, especially when it comes to high-value charismatic species, is extremely polarised, particularly when discussing the inclusion of consumptive use as a conservation tool. In addition, population trends on a regional level for these species are very different. Across the continent, different wildlife management models, and combinations thereof, are used to conserve and manage charismatic species. However, in complex socio-ecological systems, it is imperative that people are at the forefront, and that species, especially those that have a direct impact on people and their livelihoods, have a tangible contribution to human wellbeing. In this presentation, we will explore the different management models used across the continent, the benefits and risks of the various models, and how these models have evolved over time. We evaluate how these models have contributed to species conservation by looking at percentage area under protection, species trends, as well as the resilience of the system to social and ecological changes. Despite the fact that differences in conservation philosophy and management are always highlighted, there are more commonalities than differences between the various approaches across the continent. For conservation to be successful across the continent, a unified African goal is required, in which differences in philosophy and management are recognised and accepted, and that the more diverse and adaptive our management strategies are, and the more our efforts are focussed on positive human outcomes, the more likely we are to achieve positive conservation outcomes across the continent.

The current status of the polyphagous shot hole borer outbreak in South Africa’s native forests
11:15 AM - 11:30 AM2019/11/05 09:15:00 UTC - 2019/11/05 09:30:00 UTC

The impact of the polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB) and its Fusarium fungal symbiont on forest ecosystems in South Africa is alarming. The beetle-fungus combination was first detected killing London plane trees in the KwaZulu-Natal province in early 2017. Since then infestations have been observed on more than 80 species of trees in seven of the nine provinces. These include commercial pecan orchards in the Northern Cape, and many common street and garden tree species in urban areas in six of the provinces. Most concerning are native trees that are infested and dying in urban and natural forests. The impact of all other serious tree pests that South Africa had to deal with in the past, was restricted to the agriculture and forestry sectors. Now, for the first time the country has to deal with a pest that ignores all boundaries, including those between climatic regions, or host tree genera, or orchards, commercial plantations, natural forests, streets, parks, and gardens. Current frameworks in government and other institutions for monitoring, reporting, impact assessment, research, control measures, management strategies, funding, and legislation, are not adequate to deal with the PSHB invasion. A coordinated, national strategy and network is needed to combat the PSHB, or else valuable resources and time will be wasted while the pest is destroying our trees and expanding its territory. Attempts are being made from within and outside government structures to align the different strategies with the needs and agendas of stakeholders.

The influence of lion (Panthera leo) and cheetah (Aciononyx jubatus) distribution and prey preference on wild dog (Lycaon pictus) dynamics at the Manyoni Private Game Reserve, South Africa
11:30 AM - 11:45 AM2019/11/05 09:30:00 UTC - 2019/11/05 09:45:00 UTC

Conservation strategies for the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) are based on creating metapopulations on small enclosed reserves in South Africa. With these reintroductions increasing, prey preferences, habitat selections, and interspecific competition must be considered by reserve managers to ensure the species' survival. In this study we investigated potential interspecific competition amongst three wild dogs, 20 lion, and 19 cheetah at the Manyoni Private Game Reserve (MPGR) in South Africa. The main goal was to examine the prey preference of each predator, and the distribution of both prey and predator species. Analysing observational and triangulated data from 2014 – 2018, both wild dog and cheetah killed more impala than any other prey species, suggesting a dietary overlap. Wild dog also showed preference for nyala (p < 0.001), and lion significantly killed more warthog (p < 0.001) than expected. Cheetah and lion distributions have a potential overlap in the centre of the reserve, and wild dog distributions occurred on the outskirts. Wild dogs were the only species to show a significant preference for the rocky hill habitat type (p = 0.03), suggesting they are being driven to that area to possibly avoid lion. Prey species significantly preferred riparian and thicket habitat types but no preference was shown for rocky hills. These results exhibit a prey preference overlap between wild dog and cheetah, and potential interspecific competition amongst the three predators on MPGR for both prey and habitat. Other studies show that wild dogs avoid lion territory, and have a dietary overlap with cheetah. To avoid dietary competition between cheetah and wild dog, management could introduce more smaller prey species to balance the consumption rate of specific prey. It is also recommended that MPGR monitors their lion population to avoid unnecessary population declines of subordinate predators.

Reviewing the distribution and conservation of South Africa's southern banded snake eagles
11:45 AM - 12:00 Noon2019/11/05 09:45:00 UTC - 2019/11/05 10:00:00 UTC

The KwaZulu-Natal north coast is home to many birds of prey, a large proportion of which have experienced shifts in their distributions in response to large scale habitat transformation linked to anthropogenic activities across the region. One of the most affected species is the southern banded snake eagle (Circaetus fasciolatus), a coastal forest specialist, which is listed regionally as critically endangered in South Africa with an estimated population of fewer than 50 individuals. BirdLife South Africa (BLSA) is working to understand how land cover transformation has impacted the distribution of these cryptic forest raptors and whether the species has adapted to the conversion of their natural coastal forests into a matrix of plantations, mines and human settlements with only pockets of natural forest remaining outside of the formally protected areas. Within the protected area network, an electrocution risk assessment has been conducted to determine the potential exposure of southern banded snake eagles to electrical transformers which they may perch on when hunting. BLSA has conducted surveys of the plantation matrices and protected areas to collect information in conjunction with citizen science records for the development of habitat suitability models and patch connectivity measurements between suitable sites for southern banded snake eagles. Threat mapping identified 21 high risk and 104 medium risk transformer boxes within the core distribution areas. This work will inform the development of conservation management guidelines in conjunction with industry stakeholders, communities and provincial nature conservation authorities, aimed at promoting the survival of southern banded snake eagles and other forest-dwelling raptors in the long-term. With the reduction in available habitat for this species in South Africa, we question whether there should be a push towards a global review of the species conservation status.

Blue swallow. A species in crisis?
12:00 Noon - 12:15 PM2019/11/05 10:00:00 UTC - 2019/11/05 10:15:00 UTC

Blue swallows (Hirundo atrocaerulea) are a vulnerable species internationally and evaluated as critically endangered in South Africa. This intra-African migratory species is threatened by destruction, degradation and fragmentation of grassland and wetland habitats on both breeding (southern Africa) and non-breeding (East Africa) grounds. The destruction and fragmentation of natural habitat have led to a rapid reduction of an already small population. In KwaZulu-Natal, this species has a narrow habitat preference for Moist Mistbelt Grasslands where it forages and nests. The extent of these grasslands has continued to decline through land-use change at a rate of approximately 6% annually. Achievement of the species conservation target would signal that there are adequate areas of appropriate grassland with suitable nesting and foraging habitat set aside, and where land-use is compatible with blue swallow nesting and foraging requirements. In addition to contributing to protected area expansion goals and supporting private and communal landholders to conserve and manage areas essential for threatened bird species conservation, the BirdLife SA-Conservation Outcomes partnership together with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is coordinating blue swallow monitoring and conservation in KwaZulu-Natal. This presentation discusses the monitoring results and trends in the blue swallow population status since the early 2000s. Blue swallow populations in KwaZulu-Natal have declined at an average of 3.3% annually since 2000 and are now estimated to be below 25 pairs. Our presentation covers possible reasons for the observed trends and outlines actions being taken to contribute to habitat conservation targets for this species in KwaZulu-Natal e.g. securing habitat through the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme.

Conservation genetics of southern African crane populations
12:15 PM - 12:30 PM2019/11/05 10:15:00 UTC - 2019/11/05 10:30:00 UTC

Cranes are one of the most threatened avian taxa globally. Three IUCN red-listed species occur in southern Africa – the wattled (Grus carunculata), grey crowned (Balearica regulorum) and blue (G. paradisea) cranes. To date, genetic differentiation of only the wattled crane has been studied. Genetic diversity and population structure of the blue and grey crowned cranes, and a genetic basis for the currently recognised grey crowned crane subspecies (B. r. gibbericeps and B. r. regulorum) are important conservation questions. The origin of the isolated Namibian blue crane population also remains uncertain. This project investigates the levels of genetic variation and gene flow found in and among southern African crane populations, and predicts the distribution shifts of the three species' continental ranges from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the present day, 2050 and 2070 using microsatellite and mitochondrial genetic data and species distribution modelling. Microsatellite data show a lack of genetic differentiation within the South African populations of the three species, with subtle differentiation observed between the Botswanan and South African wattled crane samples. The presence of only one or two nucleotide variants in the ND2 sequences of the three species indicates extremely low mitochondrial diversity, which has been noted throughout the crane family. Clear reductions in all the distribution ranges were observed after the LGM. A more extensive historical southern African range was predicted for the blue crane, and the Ethiopian wattled crane population was shown to have always been isolated - suggesting the potential for taxonomic differentiation there. The project highlights the importance of continued research into the mitochondrial genetics of the crane family, and into determining whether the grey crowned crane subspecies and Ethiopian wattled crane population are genetically supported as independent evolutionary units so as to ensure the streamlining of crane conservation efforts.

Phylogeography of a threatened grassland bird: Gurney’s sugarbird (Promerops gurneyi)
12:30 PM - 12:45 PM2019/11/05 10:30:00 UTC - 2019/11/05 10:45:00 UTC

Sugarbirds are a family of two socially-monogamous passerine species endemic to southern Africa, with the Cape sugarbird (Promerops cafer) occurring in the fynbos biome of south-western South Africa and Gurney's sugarbird (Promerops gurneyi) occurring in the grasslands of eastern South Africa, eSwatini and Zimbabwe. The distribution of P. gurneyi is fragmented in comparison to that of P. cafer, owing to the sparse occurrence of the silver sugarbush (Protea roupelliae), a fire-sensitive species that is Gurney's sugarbird's preferred source of food, shelter and nesting sites. According to recent data, P. gurneyi populations are in decline and revision of the species' IUCN conservation status to a threatened category may be warranted. It is, therefore, necessary to understand genetic diversity and risk of inbreeding in this species. We used six polymorphic microsatellite markers and one mitochondrial gene (ND2) to assess genetic diversity and structure of P. gurneyi in South Africa. We used maximum entropy modelling to predict the historical and future distributions of P. gurneyi and several other declining co-distributed grassland birds - all of which show a similar trend of increasingly limited suitable habitat through time. We describe novel universal avian primers which amplify the entire ND2 coding sequence across a broad range of bird orders. Our results suggest low levels of genetic structure at mitochondrial and microsatellite loci with no detectable inbreeding and large effective population sizes. We conclude that it is unlikely that inbreeding poses an immediate risk to the persistence of P. gurneyi in South Africa, although further work is required to assess the extent of genetic divergence among geographically isolated populations.

South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)
University of Pretoria
University of Sussex / Wildlife ACT
BirdLife South Africa
Conservation Outcomes NPC
+ 2 more speakers. View All
University of Pretoria
Dr. Deon De Jager
University of Pretoria
University of Pretoria
Ms. Jenny Thomson
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
Rhodes University / South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity
+ 26 more attendees. View All
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