Game viewing potential in a multi-use conservation area: a case study of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, Southern Africa
Pride, Roxanne S
Three key objectives of transfrontier conservation are biodiversity conservation, local economic development and the promotion of peace and cooperation across international borders (Ramutsindela, 2004). Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCA’s) may incorporate a variety of conservation land uses, and comprise of both consumptive and non-consumptive uses of wildlife (Hanks, 2003). It is critical that this mosaic of land uses is well managed and integrated in order to meet the conservation and socio-economic goals of TFCA’s. One challenge is that different conservation land use areas may have varying effects on wildlife. This study aims to further our understanding of these effects in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park of South Africa and Mozambique. The research uses the behavioural responses of wildlife as a way of determining the tolerance of wildlife to potentially disturbing activities. Four different conservation land use areas, namely trophy hunting, communal land, photographic tourism and exclusive photographic tourism were studied and compared in and around the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, southern Africa. The aim of this study was to firstly establish the diversity of mammals and the frequency of mammal sightings within each conservation land use area, and secondly, assess the response behaviour of five mammal species to an approaching vehicle. K-means cluster analysis was used on both the mammal sightings data and the response behaviour data in order to determine key influencing variables. Throughout the study period, the mammal diversity and frequency of mammal sightings were the highest in the private ecotourism concession, followed by the national park, and then the trophy hunting reserve and lastly communal land. The behavioural responses displayed by the five study mammals (African elephant, African buffalo, impala, chacma baboon and Burchell’s zebra) also varied considerably between the four conservation land use areas. The lowest response indexes and least number of flight responses occurred in the national park, followed by the private ecotourism concession, and conversely, a higher average initial response index and a greater occurrence of flight responses occurring in the trophy hunting reserve and communal land. According to the findings from the cluster analyses, the type of conservation land use impacts on the sighting potential and sighting quality of mammals, but so do iii topographical differences and seasons. These results can help in the management of each conservation land use area on its own and as an integrated part of a TFCA.
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Science, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Master of Science.