SPOTTED hyaena packs in the Kwando Core Area of the Bwabwata National Park and in the forest in the Mudumu North Complex (MNC) are stable but exist at low density, a recent study has found.
The study on Spotted Hyaena Ecology and Human-Wildlife Conflict in the Caprivi Region was conducted by the Caprivi Carnivore Project (CCP).
Project leader Lise Hansen said it appears that the spotted hyaena population around human habitation areas of the MNC was fragmented and unstable and this was likely due to persecution and trophy hunting, which under most conditions cannot be practiced sustainably with this species due to the population dynamics.
“It is likely that trophy hunting of spotted hyaenas in conservancies is impacting on clan structure within the protected are of Mudumu National Park (MNP). The density of spotted hyaena throughout the Caprivi Region appears to be far lower than originally calculated,” said Hansen in the report.
The report suggested that present management practices like trophy hunting of spotted hyaenas should not be conducted within the boundaries of protected areas, particularly the Bwabwata National Park, which is the only stable habitat for the long-term conservation of spotted hyaenas in the region.
It said the present method of setting trophy-hunting quotas per conservancy to maximise benefits to the members rather than the sustainability of the hyaena population should be reassessed for spotted hyaenas.
The report argues that there is no scientific basis or justification for the present off-take, which is driven by community pressure and negative perception and is likely to be extremely damaging to the species.
Hansen said research efforts for 2011 will focus on areas adjacent to the core conservation areas of the Bwabwata National Park, to examine the impact of continued trophy hunting of spotted hyaenas within the park as well as in the vicinity of human settlement areas to assess the extent of human-wildlife conflict.
Additional hyaena clans using the Kwando Core Area will be identified. During the field activities, five months were spent attempting to capture, collar and monitor spotted hyaenas within the park conservancies.
Approximately two months were spent monitoring changes and activities of the original long-term study clan (Kwando Clan) within the Kwando Core Area of the park.
Other activities, says the report, involved assessing predator-related human-wildlife conflict through the Conservancy Event Book System for the MNC and BNP as well as monitoring livestock practices within the different conservancies of the MNC in the East Caprivi.
Spotted hyaenas are a unique and vital component of most African ecosystems and understanding the mechanisms that regulate or limit their population should be taken into consideration when developing management plans for protected areas.
“There is little data from the Namibian population, including the Caprivi Region,” said the report.