Brown Hyena (Hyaena brunnea)
For the first time in the history of the reserve, we are now also monitoring the spatial-temporal movements of brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea) and spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve (NTGR). The addition of these two large carnivore species is a key factor in better understanding the complex drivers and relationships that exist in a savanna ecosystem. With the ongoing utilization of remote camera traps and annual calling-station surveys to monitor population distribution and abundance, the newly deployed GPS radio collars will give us an advanced insight, specifically on the movements of these two carnivores.
It is postulated that larger and more dominant species will have a negative impact on the distribution and abundance of smaller rival species. Sightings of brown hyenas, which were once frequent and considered widespread across the reserve, now only occur in isolated cases along the Limpopo River with the majority of sightings along the Motloutse River. Brown hyaena are currently listed as near-threatened on the IUCN red list with human-conflict outside protected areas being a major driver of their decreasing population numbers, in some cases resulting in local extinction.
The NTGR is considered to have a relative high density of spotted hyenas and a low density of brown hyenas, an inverse relationship is observed in these neighboring reserves. Historical records suggest that the density of large predators, especially spotted hyenas, were very low when the NTGR was first proclaimed a nature reserve in the mid 1960’s (McKenzie, 1990).
The aim of this project is to document and monitor the spatial-temporal movement of brown hyena in response to spotted hyena and other large carnivores in the region, but also to derive reliable abundance and population estimates of this elusive carnivore.