In the meantime, locating, vaccinating and preserving the remaining 70 of these noble animals should be top priority.
Just maybe SANParks should contact Dr. Salmon Joubert and get his input on this urgent matter, Hippotragus Equinis was the specie on which he based his doctorate.
Historically the Northern Plains had no natural perennial water resources and were inhabited by a variety of ‘low density’ species, notably Roan antelope, Tsessebe, Reedbuck and Eland, other species that inhabited the Northern Plains, but all in low densities, including Elephant, Buffalo, Wildebeest, Zebra and Kudu.
The KNP Management policy was that emphasis be placed on managing the ecosystems to maintain them in the most natural state possible. This is then based on the principle that animal numbers are regulated by the availability and suitability of the habitats and as and as such reflect the harmony brought forward about the interaction between habitats and animal populations.
In addressing the problem with habitat changes on the Northern Plains, and the consequent sharp declines in the Roan Antelope and Tsessebe populations, Joubert suggested that the following issues be addressed:
Primarily – the network of artificial watering points.
Secondary – the increase in Zebra and to a lesser extent Wildebeest populations – changes in the field layer as a result of increased populations of grazers – the sharp increase in the Lion population.
It was clear that the primary cause – the artificial watering points had to be addressed as well as the concomitant reduction of the animal populations (Zebra and Lion) as a result of the water points.
The advantage of this was that the removal of the primary and secondary causes could be achieved in a relatively short period of time.
The Lion and Wildebeest were numerous on the Northern Plains and a reduction of their numbers in this area would not have a significant impact on their overall population.
The Wildebeest and Lion populations would adjust to population limits in harmony with their habitats.
The vegetation would be able to recover in the shortest possible time, while the most favourable conditions for the survival of the low density species would be provided.
It was raised that this may be viewed negatively by the public.
Dr. Gus Mills mentioned in 1994 that in light of the higher than expected of the Lion density on the Northern Plains , the concern has been expressed may have been and still may be, an important contributory factor to the decline of the selective grazers. The Sable population began to decline in 1986, and the Roan and Tsessebe populations in 1987.
The Roan population had nearly halved by 1989 compared to the 1986 figures. Six Lion kills of Roan were reported by Rangers during the period 1987 to 1990.
He also reported that predator – prey relations are complex interactions, influenced by a suite of ecological and behavioural parameters, including rainfall. He also stated that this opportunity must be used to study the effects of windmill closure on as many important ecological parameters as possible.
As part of addressing the falling numbers of Roan Antelope Dr. Joubert on 12 July 1993, addressed a letter to Dr. P Mulder, the Chief Director, Nature and Environmental Conservation of the Transvaal Provincial Administration, in which he explained the situation and also mentioned that although climatic conditions are regarded as a major cause of the decline of the Roan Antelope population, it is also is possible that certain management programmes, in particular water provision and veld burning schedules, could have contributed to the decline. Comprehensive investigations, analyses and interpretation of all available data that could shed some light on the situation have been undertaken.
In light of the above it was decided to adapt some management approaches and to launch an intensive monitoring action to determine the trends of the Roan Antelope population and the influence of associated animal and environmental conditions. It was expected that with the onset of a higher rainfall period the Roan Antelope population could be expected to recover naturally. However if the decline in the population made this difficuilt or impossible Joubert requested Mulder if his Department could make a herd of 20 Roan Antelope available to the KNP.
On 2 August 1993 Dr. Mulder responded that due to commitment by the TPA, no Roan Antelope could be made available for a number of years.
Ranger Arrie Schreiber supported the release of a breeding herd of Roan into the N’wasitsumbe enclosure, preferably from the capture of peripheral stragglers. This was supported by Mills, Whyte and Viljoen.
At a Standing Committee meeting for Wildlife Management held on 15 February 1994 the following decisions regarding the Northern Plains were taken:
The 12 waterholes in the area should be closed without delay.
The Lichtensteins hartebeest had to be released from the N'washitsumbe enclosure and their movements monitored.
A number of Roan Antelope were to be caught on the periphery of the plains and released into the enclosure.
The results of the monitoring programme had to be reported to the Standing Committee for Wildlife Management on a monthly basis.
Intensive monitoring of the Roan Antelope, other low-density species and carnivores on the plains had to be continued
Funds had to made available for the upgrading of the enclosure.
Permission was received from the Chief Executive Director of National Parks, Dr. G Robinson to close the following water points: Hlamala-north, Brandwag, Hlamalala-south, N’washitsumbe-north, N’washitsumbe, Roan Camp, Vlakteplaas, Papanyana, Boyela-north, Nwarlanghari north, Morewag and Steenbokpan. By March 1994 all these water points were closed.
A number of additional projects were implemented:
Six additional rainfall gauges were installed on the Northern Plains – Brandwag, Shirombe, Roan Camp, Vlakteplaas, Trig Beacon and Mpenza.
Veld condition Assessment plots were increased from 27 to 44 it was noticed that the veld condition had improved much in the three years after the 1992 drought. The purpose of the exclosure plots were to determine the degree to which herbivore utilization influences veld conditions and phytomass trends. It was also recommended that lightning fires be allowed to take their course as in the rest of the Park. The Northern Plains had been exempted from this veld – burning policy due to the low phytomass following the drought.
Additional EAS counts were to be done annually to those on the Northern Plains at the end of the dry season (September), mid summer (December), late summer (March), Between August 1992 and March 1995 the number of Zebra declined from 2508 to 1381, Roan Antelope from 31 to 17, Tsessebe from 136 to 25 and Sable from 85 to 32.
It was also decided that the decline of Sable and Tsessebe, research and management actions similar to that of Roan should be investigated to tackle the problem.
Due to the difficulty in spotting Roan from the air it was decided that a Roan from the Langtoon herd be fitted with a radio collar. And that the data from the collared animal could be reviewed.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
Convenor of the AIKONA Group.
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 141 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.