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A keystone predator at risk? Density and distribution of the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) in the Etosha National Park, Namibia

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Abstract:

For wildlife management and conservation biology, it is important to be able to estimate the status and distribution of animals and to monitor their population trends. In the Etosha National Park, Namibia, there is a lack of knowledge about numbers and distribution of spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta (Erxleben, 1777)) and factors regulating their population. To estimate hyena density and distribution, tape-recorded vocalizations (call-ups) were performed to attract hyenas in the central and eastern parts of Etosha. Eighty-five adult and subadult hyenas responded to the calls, with most of them responding in an area with high density of migratory ungulates, principally springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis (Zimmermann, 1780)), wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus (Burchell, 1823)), and Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli (Gray, 1824)). These migratory species are the main prey of spotted hyenas in Etosha. There was a strong spatial relationship between hyena density and migratory prey biomass. Based on this mathematical correlation, I estimated 203 ± 79 hyenas, i.e., 2.7 ± 1.1 hyenas/100 km2, in the central and eastern parts of Etosha. Applying this correlation to the western part of the park, it was possible to estimate 339 ± 176 spotted hyenas, corresponding to an overall density of 2.1 ± 1.0 hyenas/100 km2, in the whole Etosha National Park.

En gestion de la faune sauvage et en biologie de la conservation, il est important d’être capable d’estimer le statut et la répartition des animaux et de suivre leurs tendances démographiques. Au parc national d’Etosha, en Namibie, on a peu d’information sur les nombres et la répartition des hyènes tachetées (Crocuta crocuta (Erxleben, 1777)) et sur les facteurs qui contrôlent leur population. Afin d’estimer la densité et la répartition des hyènes dans le centre et l’est d’Etosha, des enregistrements de vocalisations (des appels sur bande magnétique) ont été diffusés afin d’attirer les hyènes. Quatre-vingt-cinq hyènes adultes et subadultes ont répondu aux appels, la plupart dans une région de forte densité de migration d’ongulés, particulièrement de springboks (Antidorcas marsupialis (Zimmerman, 1780)), de gnous bleus (Connochaetes taurinus (Burchell, 1823)) et de zèbres de Burchell (Equus burchelli (Gray, 1824)). Ces espèces migratrices constituent les proies principales des hyènes tachetées à Etosha. Il existe une forte relation spatiale entre la densité des hyènes et la biomasse des proies migratrices. Cette corrélation mathématique a permis d’estimer le nombre de hyènes à 203 ± 79, c’est-à-dire 2,7 ± 1,1 hyènes/100 km2, dans le centre et l’est d’Etosha. En appliquant cette corrélation à l’ouest du parc, il est possible d’estimer le nombre de hyènes tachetées à 339 ± 176, ce qui correspond à une densité globale de 2,1 ± 1,0 hyènes/100 km2, dans l’ensemble du parc national d’Etosha.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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