Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects

Department

Biology

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Prior to the 20th century black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) were the most prevalent rhino species with population estimates reaching 850,000 individuals (Rhino Resource Center, May 2013). The black rhino underwent the single fastest and most severe decline of all large mammal species from the 1960s to the 1990s, resulting in current population estimates of 3,600 animals (Emslie, 2012; Hillman-Smith and Groves, 1994). Reintroduction efforts are taking place to restore this species and 19 animals were reintroduced to a Kruger Associated Private Nature Reserve, six of these individuals were accessible for study. Animals were monitored on a regular basis and home ranges were developed. Forage data were collected through back tracking a standard bite estimator (Buk, 2004). The forage data were then compared with vegetation availability calculated from random plots that fell within home ranges and electivity indexes were calculated. The vegetation within home ranges was compared to the data from vegetation across the entire study area and to only the vegetation that fell outside of home ranges; a significant difference was between each comparison. Water analyses and visibility indexes were conducted; these were analyzed through a principal component analysis. A rotated component plot was developed and the factor scores for each waterhole were projected on the map and coded for the number of rhino visits that occurred in a defined period. The graph does not indicate that any relationships among the variables would be useful for predicting rhino water hole use. The significant difference between the vegetation make up within home ranges compared to the vegetation across the entire study site along with several high electivity indexes do indicate that the animals are utilizing the habitat differentially across the landscape. This differential use could indicate that the reserve’s management plan calling for a six to seven percent off take per year could be unsustainable and would need amending.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Dr. Michael Stokes

Disciplines

Biology

Included in

Biology Commons

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