Researcher: Lise Hanssen
Region: aprivi (Zambezi) Region, Namibia
Spotted hyaena are the most abundant of all large carnivores in sub-Saharan Africa, occurring in a wide variety of habitats. However, their range was drastically reduced during the 20th century, continuing into the current one. The reduction in numbers and distribution has been accelerating as the human population grows, resulting in an increase in conflict between hyaena and human development. This problem is accentuated in areas of high human density. The future for spotted hyaena outside protected areas remains precarious. It is difficult to reconcile the presence of spotted hyaena in agricultural areas, as they are formidable livestock killers and are actively persecuted. Because the spotted hyaena is unable to inhabit agricultural areas successfully its future is tied to the long-term future of conservation areas.
The Caprivi has three National Parks: Bwabwata National Park (BNP) in the west, and Mudumu and Mamili National Parks in the east. High-density human settlements and related livestock farming practices on the periphery of these protected areas result in the highest Human Wildlife Conflict area in Namibia.
In some conservancies in the eastern Caprivi, spotted hyaena are thought to be responsible for over 50% of all livestock losses to large carnivores. Next to elephant they are considered the biggest problem animal in all conservancies throughout Namibia.
Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) is a threat to conservation and the goals and objectives of the Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme that is practiced within the Caprivi conservancies. At the same time spotted hyaena are considered conservation-dependent and much of their range in Namibia is data deficient. The Caprivi Spotted Hyaena Project is the first attempt to study their ecology and related Human Wildlife Conflict in the north-east region of Namibia.
This study will focus on hyaena-related human-wildlife conflict (HWC) and its mitigation in the Mudumu South Complex (MSC), which are the conservancies that lie between the Mudumu and the Mamili National Parks of the East Caprivi. This area has the highest number of incidences of HWC in Namibia, but is also essential habitat for the conservation dependant spotted hyaena, which appears to also be isolated in these parks of the East Caprivi from any other populations. Being a keystone species, creating habitat in the MSC will benefit not only other social living carnivores like lions and wild dogs, but many additional species. The project will attempt to provide essential data to guide correct management of this important species with the conservancies that border these protected areas.
The overall aim of this project is to determine the demography, land use characteristics and limiting factors of spotted hyaenas in the Caprivi Region, including protected areas and guide management decisions for their long-term conservation. The project is the first of its kind in the Caprivi and the first large carnivore research to be undertaken in the region. It is still the only species-related study focusing on HWC in the Caprivi and Kavango Regions.
The objectives of the project include:
- Establish the density and distribution of spotted hyaenas in the Mudumu South Complex including the two national parks of Mudumu and Mamili.
- Identify prey base (including livestock depredation).
- To identify the extent of spotted hyaena and other large carnivore related human-wildlife conflict in the conservancies lying between the two national parks of Mudumu and Mamili in the East Caprivi.
- Identify areas with the highest frequency of incidences of spotted hyaena related human-wildlife conflict.
- Identify extent of movement of spotted hyaenas between the two protected areas of the East Caprivi.
- Identify the extent of spotted movement of between Namibia and Botswana.
- Examine currently used livestock husbandry techniques as well as livestock depredation within the conservancies adjacent to the protected areas in the Mudumu South Complex.
- Identify effective methods to mitigate predator related human-wildlife conflict.
- Train Community Game Guards in species research field techniques.
- Guide management decisions on spotted hyaenas and other large carnivore that are currently in use within the Mudumu South Complex conservancies.
Bait sites monitored with infra-red remote cameras will be used to attract hyaenas and examine group sizes as well as individuals. The sites will also be used for hyaena capture. Animals will be immobilized with Tiletamine and Zolezepam (Zoletil) using 2cc disposable darts. Up to three adults per clan will be fitted with satellite collars. Satellite collars will follow the same specs as those within MET’s large mammal Transboundary study. Additional study animals will be marked with ear notches and also identified with photographs of spot patterns. Clan sizes will be established by placing infra red cameras at dens and marked individuals as well as cubs will be counted by photographic record. Locating latrines will be undertaken on foot and by vehicle along known home range boundaries identified through satellite data. Latrines will also be located on foot near den sites. Scat analysis will initially be undertaken in the field by identifying prey remains by colour and texture, but all scat from the entire project is currently being stored and has been offered to the University of Namibia as a project on identifying Namibian species through molecular structure of hair samples for a post graduate student/s.
Home range analysis is undertaken by a GIS technician currently employed at WWF in Namibia, which is a project partner with MET’s Transboundary mammal study. Movement data and correlation between data sets will be undertaken by Joerg Melzheimer from IZW, currently researching cheetahs on the commercial farmlands of Namibia. Blood samples are currently stored, but will be processed under a collaborative agreement with MET. Sera is donated to the Central Veterinary Laboratory for their ongoing monitoring of Anthrax.
All livestock predation investigation will be conducted in collaboration with the conservancies and field work will be under the guidance of Community Game Guards.
The Wilderness Wildlife Trust has provided funding for a tracking collar, a remote camera, veterinary consumables and general sundries.
The following work plan has been provided for 2012:
1st Quart 2nd Quart 3rd Quart 4th Quart March – May June – October Nov – Feb Establish baiting sites in Mamili and Mudumu Capture and collar clans in Mamili and Mudumu. Field training. Lise Hanssen with Community Game Guards Lise Hanssen with Community Game Guards and MET personal Investigating livestock husbandry (dry season) in Mudumu South Complex Lise Hanssen with Game Guards Investigating livestock husbandry (wet season) in Mudumu south Complex Lise Hanssen with Game Guards. Investigating depredation incidences through event books and in field. Collect hyaena scat to identify prey species including livestock. Lise Hanssen with Conservancy Management and Community Game Guards Assessing event book data as a potential monitoring system for large carnivores. Monitoring of hyaenas collared with satellite collars. Lise Hanssen. Scientific guidance from MET and NGO’s Data analysis
Field activities took place between March and December 2011 and resumed in February 2012. To capture hyaenas, bait sites were established in ten different areas between Chetto and the Kwando River and one was placed briefly at Picapau in the Buffalo Core Area in the west of BNP.
Four bait sites fell within the multiple-use area and were set up at Xamto//ana pan, south of Chetto, Weyaxa pan, north of Pipo Village, Guixa Pan, south west of Omega 111 and along the core area cutline, north east of Mashambo Village. This area encompasses the settlements of Chetto, Pipo, ≠onxei, Kacenje, Omega 111, Poca and Mashambo.
Six bait sites were established in the Kwando Core Area. Of these, four were established on the Northern side to capture the Mukwanyati Clan for the first time. Two were situated along the track between the Susuwe Ranger Station and the Angolan border cutline; another was situated at a water-filled pan close to Delta camp in the Mukwanyati Omuramba and one was established on the Malombe track near the junction between Immelmann airstrip road and the Mukwanyati track.
Two bait sites were established south of the tar road in order to photograph known and new individuals of the Kwando Clan to monitor changes in the clan structure.
Baiting took place between April and December 2011. The bait sites within the multiple-use area were established only once hyaena spoor had been found after extensive tracking and searching effort. Bait trees were chosen for their height, robustness, accessibility by vehicle and visibility for darting activities. Baits consisted of beef and goats bought from the community as well as chicken and occasionally game meat supplied by MET during collaborative field work. Bait is hoisted high up the tree on a steel cable, out of reach of hyaenas. Bones, meat offcuts and chicken pieces were spread around the base of the tree so that hyaenas would be rewarded for their visits to keep them returning. Scent trails consisting of decomposed blood were laid from the bait along tracks and game trails at distances between 10 metres and 13 km.
New additions to the Lwazaza Clan.
Lwazaza is one of two waterholes established during the development of the Mudumu North Complex along with large number of wildlife reintroductions by MET. It is situated in the state forest, which is adjacent to the Kwandu Conservancy and close to the Zambian Border. There was very little information on which species of wildlife are found within this thick woodland until an infra-red remote camera was placed at this waterhole. Before long, there were detailed photos of predators, particularly spotted hyaenas, but also wild dog, leopard and caracal.
The spotted hyaena photographs were good enough to identify individuals and age classes within a clan structure. Although, not much information is available on this clan, with photographs taken over the last couple of months, it has become clear that the den of this clan must be very close to the waterhole. The reason for this is that two young cubs have been photographed playing with their mother and other clan members for many hours at the waterhole. Young cubs of this age do not venture far from the den and are very dependent on the mother’s milk for survival, which is their only sustenance until they are over one year old. There is now photographic evidence that there are now a minimum of seven members of the Lwazaza Clan, which includes the new cubs. It is encouraging to know that despite hyaena populations being fragmented within areas of livestock farming, they are able to exist in stable groups immediately adjacent if the group is left undisturbed.
In the past year there have been some significant changes in the BNP. One that affects spotted hyaenas in many ways is the settling of a pride of lions in the Kwando core area.
These two species have a very interesting co-existence, which has often been misinterpreted by wildlife managers. Spotted hyaena numbers have been blamed for the suppression of lion populations in many wildlife areas in Africa. This in fact is not the case, as lions and hyaena fulfil different niches in the ecosystem. For the first time in many years there have observations of interaction between these two species in Bwabwata.
During a transect foot count in September 2010, a spotted hyaena was found scavenging off of a lechwe killed by lions. An adult hyaena carcass was found in the Sanzo Omuramba during a foot patrol in March 2011 my MET Park staff. Examining the carcass revealed that it had been killed by lions.
Annual Report 2011
The project examined the role of spotted hyaena as well as livestock management practices that contribute to Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC), and attempted to establish the density and population stability of the species.
It is perceived by livestock farmers that problem animals originate from Protected Areas (PAs) to kill livestock. Data on predator related livestock losses showed that highest number of losses occurred within Mashi Conservancy (69 cattle and 53 goats) followed by Sobbe (19 cattle and 19 goats), assumed to be due to their close proximity to Mudumu National Park.
To assess farmer vigilance, the road from Singalamwe in Kwandu Conservancy to the Mudumu entrance gate was driven nightly between 19:30 and 22:30. All livestock outside kraals and unaccompanied by herders were recorded. Farmers within Kwandu adhere strictly to the HACCSIS (Human Animal Conflict Community Self Insurance Scheme) whereas many in Mashi Conservancy leave cattle to graze for weeks in the veld unguarded.
Methods used to assess hyaena presence and density included baiting areas, collaring one individual (unsuccessful) due to poor network coverage) and covering transects in search of scat and latrines. From four baiting areas, only two spotted hyaena were recorded on infrared camera at one baiting site within the conservancy areas. Three sites had no hyaena response and two had no response from any predator at all.
Despite extensive driving and walking, no latrines have been located. Only five individual scat samples were recovered throughout the MNC access roads; these consist mostly of powdery calcium with minimal prey remains, indicating that all were the result of scavenging activity. The few species found in the scat include springhare and duiker.
Results therefore indicate that spotted hyaena play a much smaller role in HWC than is thought. It is clear that farmer vigilance contributes significantly to HWC mitigation. There is every indication that density is extremely low and that the population in the east Caprivi is fragmented due to trophy hunting and persecution.
Recommendations have been made to MET to remove spotted hyaena from the trophy hunting quota in the west Caprivi due to the park’s role in protecting species; further research into the sustainability and effects of trophy hunting on this species in the Caprivi is a matter of urgency.
Average number of livestock available as prey per night
Number of transects
0 – 4
0 – 4
From the field
As the previous baiting site was surprisingly unsuccessful, a new bait site was established in the Ngonga Wildlife Corridor near the new Njalimgombe waterhole, the corridor which crosses between the east and west Caprivi. There has been a lot of spotted hyaena activity within the corridor and spoor has been seen right up against the floodplain going back up into the forest. Spoor has also regularly been seen around the Njalingombe waterhole and the whooping sound of hyaena communicating are also becoming more frequent. Although this is not an indication of increasing numbers of hyaena, it is possible that there is more frequent use of the area due to use of the newly available water supply and lack of human habitation. Hunting within the wildlife corridor is also forbidden.
While there was hyaena activity at this bait site, the East Caprivi hyaena are exceptionally shy of people as they are killed in retaliation for livestock predation and trophy hunting, therefore hyaena would not approach the bait when a vehicle was parked anywhere in the vicinity. However, finally a male hyaena in the area was immobilized, ear notched and collared. He was in excellent condition although very scarred due to fighting which suggests the presence of other hyaena. A three year old adult, he weighs approximately 55 kg. Blood samples and smears were taken. CCC-7 therefore is the first east Caprivi hyaena to be captured.
Unfortunately the GSM collar has not yet transmitted any data on CCC-7’s movements. The collar has been set to take a location every hour on the hour throughout the night so that nightly movements can be monitored. GSM collars are dependent on an adequate cell phone network reception and will download data at a preset time. Despite the East Caprivi having adequate cell phone towers, the hyaena is obviously not currently within the range at the right time. However with radio telemetry he was tracked down from an aircraft and found within the Mudumu National Park about eight kilometres south of the border. Although extremely limited, this information suggests large movements across a number of conservancies as well as a national park, which has implications for conservancy species management decisions.
MNC Waterhole monitoring
A camera has been set up at the Lwazaze waterhole situated approximately 15 km east of the Kwando River and about 5 km south of the Zambian border right in the north of the MNC and Njalingombebeen. The camera has been monitoring species of wildlife that have been visiting the waterholes. The Lwazaze camera has recorded more predators than any other species of wildlife, which is very interesting considering the thickness of the forest in the area. Predator records include leopard, wild dog and spotted hyaena. Through photo ID, five individuals of one clan have been identified as using this waterhole. They are regular visitors and repeated photos have helped with identifying association of individuals within groups as well as recording some interesting behaviour. The group consists of one sub-adult and two adult females of which one has two large cubs of approximately one year old. All predators have approached the waterhole from the north, which suggests that they are also likely to also live in the Sioma Ngwezi National Park just over the border in Zambia. From photographic evidence only, the age classes of these hyaena suggest a stable group. This clan would be ideal for a trans-boundary study between a National Park in one country and a subsistence farming area in another.
Diet of East Caprivi hyaena
The evidence of the choice of prey is based on three scats which were picked up at both waterholes and on the track leading to Njalingombe waterhole. Some of the prey items identified are bush buck, duiker, kudu and springhare. No livestock has been present in any of the samples.
Despite extensive driving and walking throughout the Mudumu North Complex, no hyaena latrines have been found. Access to the forest area is limited so the extensive network of game trails need to be explored on foot. Game Guards who patrol fixed routes throughout their conservancies only occasionally find hyaena scat and no latrines were located during the wildlife transect count which is carried out on foot throughout the entire MNC conservancies. When more data on the movements of east Caprivi hyaena is obtained from the collars then these areas can be examined for evidence of latrines.