Researcher: Erika Pretorious
Region: Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, South Africa
The establishment of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA) in 2003 began to facilitate the roaming of wildlife across national borders. However, among South African wildlife, the Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is known to be one of the primary species responsible for the maintenance and potential spread of diseases such as Bovine Tuberculosis (BTB) and Foot and Mouth disease. Therefore, there is great concern about the spread and control of wildlife-related diseases – ones that may cause substantial economic losses for the livestock sector of beef-producing regions. Recent detection of BTB strains originating from Kruger National Park in the buffalo of Gonarezhou National Park (GNP-Zimbabwe) may indicate an association with the dispersal of pathogens and the movement of buffalo (or cattle) across international borders.
To deal with these concerns the transboundary movements of buffalo within the GLTFCA began to be studied, in collaboration with Zimbabwean, South African and Mozambican veterinary authorities. The Bufalo GLTFCA project is coordinated by the regional CIRAD Research Plattform “Production and Conservation in Partnership” (RP-PCP) based in Zimbabwe.
This project aims to develop a methodology for mapping spatial and temporal characteristics of forage resource distribution as one of the drivers of buffalo movements in the northern regions of the Kruger National Park (KNP) using remotely sensed data.
In a diverse bioregion like Pafuri using remotely sensed data is challenging. Since available forage is often noted as one of the main drivers of buffalo movements, a methodology is needed that can classify and map foraging resources on a landscape scale. A number of buffalo have been fitted with GPS collars and past data collected will be used as a background as well as provided current movement patterns.
1. Finalising the study area and preferred scale.
– Identification of the preferred areas used by collared buffalo.
– Investigating road access for field visits.
– Limiting the initial study area to a more manageable area.
2. International collaboration.
Knowledgeable local and international scientists will be consulted on the process of producing a suitable methodology for a suitable vegetation analysis that may be replicable in other GLTFCA areas.
3. Mapping vegetation structure.
Creating a vegetation structure for the study area with the emphasis on grazing resources using satellite imagery and/or aerial photography as well as ground validation.
4. Analysing temporal changes in forage quantity.
Generating a spatial and temporal representation of changes in available forage quantity in the Pafuri area by using various vegetation analysis indices.
The proposed methodology includes desktop analysis of remotely sensed data using a number of sophisticated software programmes as well as at least four field visits to record seasonal changes in vegetation. So far a total of 13 sample sites for the field visits have been identified with the use of satellite imagery or existing vector data.
In order to spatially analyse and map the vegetation structure, the main vegetation zones will be used as a basis for where sub-classes will be created using medium to fine resolution imagery and orthorectified aerial photography. The aim will be to continue with the process of supervised sub-classification until each of these sub-classes represents a homogenous area from where a reasonable correlation with the quantity of forage resources can be established. This correlation is expected to differ spatially and seasonally between sub-classes. Data recorded during field visits will add value as either ground validation or collaboration of the forage-resource estimates.
In order to create a temporal analysis of forage quantity in the area, satellite imagery will be used and should be of great value.