Study of sable antelope as a comparison of habitat use between hunting zones and national parks
A debate among large mammal scientists has been going on about the effect of sport hunting on wildlife populations. One side argues that hunted mammals have adjusted to hunting pressure and therefore thrive better than those in non-hunting areas while the other side believes the opposite is true.
This is a specific study of sable (Hippotragus niger) antelope and is a comparison of habitat use between hunting zones and national parks. Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park is contiguous with the Kazuma Pan – Matetsi - Hwange complex, forming a total contiguous conservation area of over 1,846,700ha excluding forest reserves. Of particular interest to this study is the Matetsi Safari area where sport hunting is permitted.
This study has been conducted by the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority and the University of Zimbabwe. ALERT has contributed with providing assistance in data collection and cash funding.
The major hypothesis is that hunted sable will select safer habitats and these safer habitats do not represent optimal habitat for the species. Hunting utilisation levels of sable have been recorded to be one hundred percent of quota in all years, and therefore represents a species with high hunting pressure, hence its selection among many other large herbivores for this study.
In 2012 a journal article was published with the results of this study:
In this study, we tested whether terrain-based visibility modelled from a remotely sensed ASTER Digital Elevation Model (DEM) explains sable flight initiation distance (FID) better than vegetation-based visibility measured in the field. We also tested whether the effect of hunting on sable FID varies with spatial scale. We first performed a linear regression analysis relating FID to standardized coefficients of both vegetation- and terrain-based visibility where the variable with the larger coefficient was the better predictor of FID. We latter performed an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) comparing the slopes relating FID to both measures of visibility, first at the large scale and later at the small scale within the hunting area. Our results suggest that remotely sensed terrain-based visibility predicts the FID of sable better than vegetation-based visibility. We also found that the effect of hunting on sable FID varies with spatial scale.
Ndaimani H, Murwira A, Kativu S (2012) Comparing terrain and vegetation-based visibility for explaining sable flight behaviour in a Southern African savanna. Geocarto International, 2012: 1–14, iFirst article. ISSN 1010-6049 print/ISSN 1752-0762 online.