Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects



Document Type



To properly manage offtake quotas and conservation efforts, Balule Nature Reserve (South Africa) instituted a study in 2014 to determine prey species selection by megapredators. In 2015, Balule Nature Reserve received about 190 mm less rainfall between the months of January and June than in 2014 (116 mm less than average). This study compares the diets of lions and hyaenas between 2014 and 2015. Prey species consumed were determined by fecal analysis, and results were compared to prey availability. Sixteen, 1 km2 plots were chosen from the 400 km2 Reserve. Between June and August 2015, we walked three, 1 km transects in each plot, collecting 87 fecal samples. Hairs from each sample were selected for microscopic analysis via multiple subsampling methods and the hairs identified. As a reference, we developed a pictorial atlas of hairs from 17 mammalian game species showing cuticular scale and medullary patterns visible with scanning electron and light microscopes. Diet composition and Jacob’s Selectivity Index were calculated for both predator species. Impala were less represented as prey than expected, and zebra, nyala, bushbuck, and duiker were more represented as prey than expected relative to their populations.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Dr. Michael Stokes


Animal Sciences | Biology | Desert Ecology