Factors affecting intraspecific variation in home range size of a large African herbivore

Abstract

Factors affecting intraspecific variation in home range size have rarely been examined using modern statistical and remote sensing methods. This is especially true for animals in seasonal savanna environments in Africa, despite this biome’s importance for both conservation and development goals. We studied the impacts of spatial and temporal variability in environmental conditions, along with individual and social factors, on home range sizes in African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in northeastern Namibia. Our data set spans 4 years, is derived from 32 satellite tracking collars, and contains over 35,000 GPS locations. We used the local convex hull method to estimate home range size from 31 buffalo captured at 6 sites. We used a variety of remotely sensed data to characterize potential anthropogenic and natural boundaries, as well as seasonal and temporal heterogeneity in environmental conditions. Using an information-theoretic, mixed effects approach, our analyses showed that home ranges varied over two orders of magnitude and are among the largest recorded for this species. Variables relating to vegetation and habitat boundaries were more important than abiotic environmental conditions and individual or social factors in explaining variation in home range size. The relative contributions of environmental, individual, social, and linear boundary variables to intraspecific home range size have rarely been examined and prior to this had not been assessed for any species in seasonal savannas of Africa. Understanding the factors that condition space-use patterns of wildlife in this area will lead to better-informed conservation and sustainable development decisions.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Namibia, for funding, permission to capture animals in national parks (permits 1537/2010, 1339/2008, and 1184/2007), and logistical support. Erica Rieder, Carol Murphy, Julie Taylor, Ortwin Aschenborn, Vincent Guillemin, Simon Mayes, Beavan Munali, Hans Swartbooi, Bucker, Bollen Zingolo, Shadrich Siloka, Jannie du Preez, Carl-Heinz Moelle, Piet Beytell, Lise Hansen, Euan Anderson, Andrea Capobianco, Scott Loarie, Ally Thompson, Russell Taylor, and Jo Tagg assisted with field work and/or data interpretation and analysis. Special thanks to Sylvia Thompson for help in preparation of figures, and Dave Ward and Raymond Peters for interpretation of the results. We thank WWF-Germany, the Kathryn Fuller Science for Nature Fund, and the Game Products Trust Fund of Namibia for funding the field operations. Comments from Brett Goodwin and three anonymous reviewers greatly improved an earlier draft of the manuscript.

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Naidoo, R., Preez, P.D., Stuart-Hill, G. et al. Factors affecting intraspecific variation in home range size of a large African herbivore. Landscape Ecol 27, 1523–1534 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-012-9807-3

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Keywords

  • African buffalo
  • Syncerus caffer
  • Savanna
  • Biotelemetry
  • GPS collar
  • Satellite
  • Remote sensing
  • Namibia
  • Caprivi
  • Movement