Aardvark looking for food Namibia

AfriCat Aardvark Research
This research project aims to establish the potential impact of climate change on free-ranging aardvarks Orycteropus afer within the Okonjima Nature Reserve. Previous research has shown aardvark to be vulnerable to climate change; in the semi-arid Kalahari aardvarks were recorded as responding to summer droughts in three main physiological ways – switching to diurnal activity patterns, lowering of core body temperatures during metabolically challenging periods and exhibiting basking behaviours. However, such responses were not always successful and resulted in mass mortality of aardvarks following summer droughts. Given the aardvark’s status as an ecosystem engineer a keystone species, due to its burrowing behaviours, the loss of aardvarks from an ecosystem due to climate change is likely to have cascading community impacts.

 Pangolin in the Okonjima Nature Reserve

AfriCat Printed Newsletter Dec 2019
Science and Research PDF
Pangolin Research Project

 pangolin walking in the Okonjima Nature Reserve

AfriCat Pangolin Project Update
Little is known about the reproduction and life cycle of the ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii). The research that has been done, originates mainly from South Africa and is based on limited observations.
This is due to the very shy and illusive nature of pangolins, spending inactive periods in deep burrows and most of their active hours under cover in the darkness of night amidst dangerous animals. Females give birth to one pup per year after a gestation period of about 140 days. Marked breeding seasons have been noted across their range. In Namibia, a majority of births have been observed during the rainy season (October-March).

 brown hyena namibia

AfriCat Brown Hyaena Research Update 2019
During the second half of 2018, the first ever brown hyaena population survey was conducted across Okonjima. Using 40 camera traps placed mainly at latrines, predictable areas of brown hyaena activity, individual hyaenas were identified using the unique front leg stripe patterns over an 80-day survey period.
A total of 1,002 hyaena visits were recorded during the survey and 48 individual hyaenas were identified. Using spatially-explicit capture-recapture population methods, a density of 24.01 brown hyaena/100km2 was estimated; currently the highest brown hyaena density recorded anywhere.

 leopard relaxing in the Okonjima Nature Reserve Namibia

AfriCat Leopard Research 2019
During the last year the leopard research on Okonjima has focused on monitoring the existing leopard population to gain a detailed understanding of the spatial and behavioral ecology of leopards living in an enclosed reserve via the use of VHF collars and camera traps. – Dr Jenny Noak Addressing and understanding the behavioral ecology of an apex predator within enclosed reserves is of utmost importance as it enforces the balance of a healthy ecosystem and has a valuable input in forming effective conservation and management strategies of fenced reserves and which findings can help manage carnivore population in comparable reserves.

 Pangolin being tracked in the Okonjima Nature Reserve

AfriCat Pangolin Project
Determining the home range size, population density, habitat selection and ecology of wild ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) in the Okonjima Nature Reserve. Biodiversity across the world is increasingly under threat and facing diminishment as climate change, habitat loss, poaching, and wildlife trafficking are ever growing threats.  It is important now more than ever to know current populations and ecological statuses of vulnerable and keystone species to better understand what conservation management practices and methods should be implemented to secure a future on Earth for these groups.

 family of brown hyenas

Brown Hyaena Den News
Usually seen foraging alone, brown hyaena are often assumed to be solitary animals, however they been described as ‘obviously solitary, but secretly social’ due to their highly social lives which are played out at hidden dens away from sight. The Okonjima/AfriCat brown hyaena research project has been gaining insights into the secret social lives of brown hyaenas using camera traps, which is greatly enhancing our understanding of the study population. Brown hyaena dens are not easy to find, being deliberately hidden away, often in thick bush far away from roads or areas of human activity. However, GPS collars fitted to adult individuals makes locating dens much easier.

 close up of a cheetah

Metabolic Profiling of Cheetahs in Captivity
In captivity, cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are known to suffer from several chronic diseases that do not occur in their wild-living counterparts. These include lymphoplasmacytic gastritis, glomerulosclerosis, renal amyloidosis, veno-occlusive disease of the liver, adrenal hyperplasia and several ill-defined neurological disorders. Many factors have been proposed as possibly being the cause of this phenomenon – factors such as stress, lack of exercise, low genetic variability and the provision of unnatural diets in captive facilities – but to date convincing pathophysiological explanations for these diseases have been lacking or unsatisfactory. Doctor Adrian Tordiffe investigated this problem using a systems biology approach – in other words, he attempted to understand as many of the components of the cheeatah’s metabolic system as possible. He did this by using untargeted metabolomic analysis of serum and urine from captive and free-ranging cheetahs, thereby generating new physiological data for this species in the hope of developing a better understanding of their metabolism.

 cheetah flies

Cheetah Flies and More ...
Do they really bite? Do they suck a small amount of the blood while on their host – or are they simply living off dry skin - as previously believed ? The louse fly of cheetahs belongs to the genus Hippobosca within the family Hippoboscidae, but is commonly known just as the ‘louse fly’. Even though these flies have a pair of large wings and are strong fliers, they seldom leave their hosts to which they cling by means of two strong claws at the tip of each of their six legs. The high rainfall over the past few years has perhaps become one of the reasons, that we have noticed an increase in the number of the hardy ‘cheetah flies’ on the cats that are part of our Care Centre.

 brown hyena in the okonjima nature reserve

Brown Hyaena Project
Behavioural ecology and management-induced niche shift of brown hyaena in a closed reserve; implications for conservation management.' Closed reserves are an increasingly common wildlife management strategy across southern Africa. They represent a practical solution to separate wildlife from surrounding human communities, thereby protecting both sides from threats such as human-wildlife conflict. However, the often small size of such reserves means they can represent a threat to the survival of species within them when natural processes such as emigration, immigrations and expansions of ranges are prohibited.