|Town/Region||Selati Gam Reserve|
|Date||6 Feb 2017|
Terrestrial ecosystems generally contain multiple carnivore species which not only compete for shared resources but also pose a threat to one another (1). Carnivore intra-guild competition can be particularly intense as carnivores are both morphologically and behaviourally adapted for killing (2). Although the only intact guild of large carnivores can be found in Africa, our understanding of the extent of intra-guild competition is heavily biased towards canids in the northern hemisphere where the main focus has been on the role of direct killing (3,4,5). Additionally, the majority of studies on carnivore intra-guild competition have looked at the interactions between pairs of carnivore species, completely overlooking the interactions occurring among subordinate carnivores (6). Thus, there are many looming uncertainties about how exactly intra-guild competition negatively effects carnivore populations (5,7). A better understanding of the complex interactions of multiple-carnivore communities is therefore needed (4,7).
Throughout most of Africa, large carnivores are restricted to reserves or conservational areas because of human-wildlife conflict which arises due to the perceived or actual threat that free ranging carnivores pose to livestock and/or human life (8). In South Africa, however, there are very few free-ranging large carnivores, as most reserves are completely bound by electrified, predator-proof fencing (9). Often these reserves are small (<400km (2)) and are unable to naturally support viable populations of large carnivores (10). In addition, the likelihood of competition or killing among carnivore guild members within these small, enclosed reserves may increase, as artificially high population densities are created due to the clumping of competing carnivores (11). Unfortunately, the ways in which multiple carnivore species utilize and partition space and resources in small, enclosed reserves of South Africa is currently poorly understood (1). Understanding how animals utilize available resources is important for their conservation, as it provides insight into the ecological needs of the species (10).
In order for small, enclosed reserves to play a significant role in the conservation of carnivores, site-specific management decisions need to be made with regards to the area, density of prey and predators as well as to take into account the complex interactions among carnivores (4,10). Given Africa’s rapidly expanding human population, enclosed reserves may become increasingly important for carnivore conservation (10). Therefore, understanding the fundamental roles and population potentials of carnivores within a small, enclosed system such as, Selati Game Reserve is vital.
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