ItemEffects of biogas slurry on capsicum spp. growth and control of soil-pathogens.(2022) Wang, Zichen.; Kana, Evariste Bosco Gueguim.; Olaniran, Ademola Olufolahan.; Ye, Xiaomei.Abstract available in PDF. ItemEvaluation of lanthanum/iron oxide amended formable biochar for phosphorous and nitrogen removal in wastewater: preparation, mechanism, and application.(2022) Sun, Enhui.; Hunter, Charles Haig.; Yang, Lingzhang.Abstract available in PDF. ItemAspects of the use of vultures in traditional medicine in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and conservation implications.(2022) Manqele, Nomthandazo Samantha.; Downs, Colleen Thelma.; Selier, Sarah Anne Jeanneta.Eighty percent of people in developing countries use traditional medicine either as a primary source of healthcare or as supplementary to western medicine. Traditional medicines are mainly derived from wild plants and animals. There has been a marked global increase in the use of animals and their body parts as ingredients in traditional medicine. The harvesting and use of wildlife resources in traditional medicine are largely unregulated and involve many species of conservation concern. This is true for African vultures, as evidence indicates that traditional medicine is responsible for 29% of African vulture mortalities. Currently, six out of seven vulture species in South Africa face a serious threat of extinction. The threatened species are listed under the Threatened or Protected Species regulations, which prohibit hunting and consumption. However, evidence suggests a long-standing use of vultures in traditional medicine in KwaZulu- Natal, South Africa, yet so much remains unknown about this practice. Understanding the belief system and the socio-economic dispositions underpinning the belief-based use of vultures will favour vulture conservation efforts in the province. Research was undertaken with the aim of advancing the knowledge base regarding the use of vultures in traditional medicine in KwaZulu-Natal. Accordingly, the following objectives were established: 1) to assess human-vulture interactions in a dynamic ecosystem, 2) to evaluate the dynamics behind the illegal harvesting and trade of vultures and their body parts, 3) to investigate the ethnomedicinal use of vultures by traditional health practitioners and 4) report on the efficacy of religion as an alternative for traditional medicine use. The study involved local communities surrounding protected areas and specific groups such as hunters, muthi traders, and traditional healers. A mixed-methodology approach was adopted, and data were collected using questionnaire surveys, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions and observations. A total of 728 respondents contributed to this study. Local people’s perceptions towards vultures were predominantly positive. Respondents appreciated vultures for removing carcases, thus keeping the environment clean. Results also demonstrated that hunting and wildlife consumption were common in the study areas, and that the hunting and use of vultures were a part of this. Vultures were harvested from protected areas and sold directly to traditional healers and also to muthi traders. Vultures were reportedly important in traditional medicine, but their harvesting was limited because it was perceived as a criminal activity, and the birds reportedly occurred in smaller numbers than before. In traditional medicine, seven vulture parts were used, but the head treated the majority (62%) of ailments reported. Seventy-one percent of the uses for vulture-based remedies were spiritual in nature. Religious practices such as church attendance, prayer and fasting, coupled with products like holy water, can provide relief from physical and psychological ailments. In this study, the role of religion in contributing positively to human health and well-being was underscored. Overall, results from this study can be instrumental in guiding efforts to improve vulture conservation in KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of South Africa. ItemAspects of the ecology and persistence of vervet monkeys in mosaic urban landscapes in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Izingxenyezici zendawomvelompiliswano kanye nokwanda kwezinkawu zohlobo lwe-vervet ezindaweni zasemadolobheni ezihlukahlukene ngokwezimo zempilo KwaZulu-Natali eNingizimu Afrika.(2022) Pillay, Kerushka Robyn.; Downs, Colleen Thelma.The geological era in which we live is termed the Anthropocene and is causing the greatest loss of biodiversity and species brought on by a single species: Homo sapiens. The human population places great demands on the environment, altering and modifying it to suit people’s needs. Urbanisation is one of the greatest anthropogenic land-use modifications, predominantly for infrastructure and housing developments. This results in the loss of natural green spaces where wildlife lives, forcing them into smaller fragmented habitats, often having to share the urban mosaic landscape with humans. These increased interactions often lead to humanwildlife conflict. Generally, urbanisation affects species negatively. However, some species exhibit the ability to persist in urban areas, successfully utilising resources for their natural life traits. One such primate species persisting in urban mosaic landscapes is the vervet monkey, Chlorocebus pygerythrus, particularly in the eThekwini Municipality, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. Increased human population growth and associated urban transformation have increased contact between humans and troops of vervet monkeys using residential and industrial gardens. This has led to increased human-wildlife conflict, with vervet monkeys often persecuted because of their damage to human property and harassment. Little is known about the ecology of urban vervet monkeys, so to assess and manage this wildlife conflict, a need to determine the behavioural ecology and persistence of vervet monkeys were investigated in this study. This study analysed vervet monkeys' spatial ecology in the mosaic urban-forest landscape and provided insight into their home ranges and habitat use here. Additionally, the effects of anthropogenic activities and human-wildlife conflict on wild vervet monkeys were documented. The results contribute to understanding the foundation of human-vervet conflict resolution programmes and support for further education and coexistence with wildlife in mosaic urban landscapes. The conservation of vervet monkeys should be supported by all who live in these areas, not by some factions. The presence of primates, such as the vervet monkey, that use managed green spaces, such as gardens, in the eThekwini Municipality should provide the public with the ultimate catalyst and insight into protecting and conserving this species and others for future generations. Overall, the results presented in this thesis provide an understanding of the persistence of this Old World primate in mosaic urban landscapes. Iqoqa Isikhathi esiphila kuso mayelana nesimo sendalo yomhlaba esikuwo saziwa ngele-Anthropocene siyimbangela yokushabalala okusezingeni eliphezulu yokusatshalaliswa kwendawomvelompiliswano kanye nohlobo lwezilwane okubangelwa uhlobo olulodwa: oluyi-Homo sapiens. Izidalwa ezingabantu zinomthelela omkhulu emvelweni ngendlela yokuthi ziguquguqula imvelo ukuze kufezeke izidingo zazo. Ukwakhiwa kwezindawo zasemadolobheni kungenye yezinguquko ezidalwa ngabantu lapho besebenzisa umhlaba ikakhulukazi ukwakha izindawo zokuhlala kanye nezingqalasizinda. Lokhu kuholela ekuthini kuntuleke izindawo okuphila kuzo izilwane zasendle okube sekudala ukuthi lezi zilwane zigcine sezihlala ezindaweni ezimpintshekile zaba zincane. Lokhu kube sekuholela ekuthini zigcine sezibanga indawo nabantu basemadolobheni. Lokhu kwanda kokuhlalisana nabantu kuholela ekushayisaneni phakathi kwabantu kanye nezilwane. Nokho-ke, kunohlobo olukhombisa ukuthi luyakwazi ukuqhubeka nokuphila kahle ezindaweni ezingamadolobha ngokuzizamela kulokho okukhona ukuze luziphilise ngendlela efanele. Uhlobo olukhombise ukuthi luyakwazi ukuqhubeka nokuziphilisa ngaphansi kwesimo sasemadolobheni yilolu lwezinkawu ezaziwa nge-vervet, Chlorocebus pygerythrus,ikakhulukazi endaweni kaMasipala weTheku, eThekwini, esifundazweni saKwaZulu-Natali, eNingizimu Afrika. Ukwanda kwesibalo sabantu kanye nokuguquka kwesimo senhlalo yabantu okuhambisana nakho sekwenze ukuthi kwande nokuhlangana kwabantu nemihlambi yezinkawu ezizitika ezingadini zabantu emakhaya kanye nasezingadini zabalimi abakhulu. Lokhu sekuholele ekushayisaneni phakathi kwabantu kanye nezilwane zasendle okwenza ukuthi izinkawu ezingama-vervet zizithole zisenkingeni ngenxa yokucekela kwazo phansi impahla yabantu kanye nokuba yisicefe esingapheli. Aluluningi ulwazi olukhona mayelana nezinkawu zasemadolobheni ezingama-vervet, ngakho-ke lolu cwaningo lwaphenya mayelana nokuziphatha kwalezi zinkawu ngaphansi kwezimo zendawo eseziguqukile kanye nokwanda kwazo ukuze kuhlolwe kuphinde kulawulwe lokhu kushayisana nezilwane zasendle. Lolu cwaningo lwahlaziya izindawo ezingamahlathi asedolobheni okuhlala kuzo lezi zinkawu ezingama-vervet, lwase lunikeza ulwazi olujulile mayelana nezindawo okuhlala kuzo lezi zinkawu kanye nendlela eziziphilisa ngayo kulezi zindawo. Okunye okwaqoshwa phansi yimithelela yezinto ezenziwa ngabantu kanye nokushayisana phakathi kwabantu kanye nezinkawu ezingama-vervet. Imiphumela yocwaningo yathasisela olwazini olumaqondana nezinhlelo okungakhelwa phezu kwazo ukuxazululwa kokushayisana kwabantu nezinkawu ezingama-vervet, iphinde isekele ukufunda okuqhubekayo mayelana nokuhlalisana nezilwane zasendle ezindaweni ezisakhula zasemadolobheni. Kumele kusekelwe ukongiwa kwezinkawu ezingama-vervet yibo bonke abahlala ezindaweni ezisemadolobheni, kungabi ngabathile kuphela. Ukuba khona kwalolu hlobo lwezilwane ezifana nezinkawu ezingama-vervet ezindaweni ezisetshenziswa nezenganyelwe njengezingadi zomphakathi njengezikaMasipala weTheku kumele kuhlomise amalungu omphakathi ngolwazi nanogqozi lokuvikela kanye nokonga lolu hlobo lwezilwane kanye nezinye izinhlobo ukuze nezizukulwane ezizayo zikwazi ukuzibona ziphila. Ekugcineni kwakho konke imiphumela etholakale kulolu cwaningo iveze ulwazi nokuqonda mayelana nokwanda kwalolu hlobo lwezinkawu ezindaweni ezingamadolobha. ItemLocal and landscape drivers of avian diversity facets in the naturally fragmented Southern Mistbelt forests of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, South Africa.Abashayeli bendawo bezinhlobo zezinyoni ezahlukene emahlathini ase-Southern Mistbelt ahlukaniswe ngokwemvelo ezifundazweni zakwa KwaZulu-Natal nase Eastern Cape eNingizimu Afrika.(2022) Ngcobo, Samukelisiwe Princess.; Downs, Colleen Thelma.Forest fragmentation is a process whereby a forest landscape is subdivided into smaller and more isolated fragments embedded within a matrix of anthropogenic land-uses. The effects of increasing anthropogenic practices surrounding forest remnants threaten species persistence as habitat fragments become further isolated by the matrix, which impedes species movement and dispersal, causing local extinctions when conditions become more unfavourable. However, naturally fragmented forest systems harbour resilient species, but the novel challenges presently experienced by these species have unknown consequences. Here, I determined to assess local avian diversity facets in selected naturally fragmented Southern Mistbelt forests of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces, South Africa. I conducted fixed-radius point-count surveys across 32 (range: 0.03 – 732.42 ha) of these Southern Mistbelt Forests. Data collection was conducted during the breeding (October-February) and nonbreeding (May-August) seasons in 2018 and 2019. Firstly, I used a multifaceted approach to assess the effects of landscape composition (i.e., matrix quality), habitat fragmentation (i.e., isolation distance and fragment-size) and local habitat heterogeneity (i.e., forest-structural complexity) on avian alpha-diversity (taxonomic, functional, phylogenetic and functional-phylogenetic diversity) of the whole community, forest-dependent (i.e. forest specialist) and non-forest-dependent (i.e. forest generalist) assemblages. Secondly, I revealed how key landscape features (i.e. habitat amount, matrix heterogeneity and average isolation distance) affected local bird diversity and determined the importance of each landscape variable using linear mixed-effect models (LMEs). Thirdly, I mapped connectivity of core Southern Mistbelt Forest patches provisioning the highest (≥ 50 %) avian phylogenetic diversity by using a hybrid of least-cost pathway and ecological circuit theory approach to identify landscape features that promote or impede habitat connectivity of a surrogate forest-specialised and dispersal-limited species (Lemon dove - Aplopelia larvata) to guide landscape connectivity for avian forest communities in the fragmented forest mosaic landscape. My findings revealed that: A) 1. matrix quality was a significant positive predictor of functional (FRic, sesFRic) and phylogenetic (sesPD) diversity; 2. habitat fragmentation had significantly negative effects (i.e. increasing isolation distance and decreasing fragment size) on multiple diversity facets; and 3. diversity facets of forest-dependent species unexpectedly declined with increasing local vegetation complexity. B) Habitat amount in the landscape was the main significant positive predictor of local forest bird diversity, and there were no significant influences of the average isolation distance and landscape (matrix) heterogeneity on local avian diversity. C) Landscape connectivity of Southern Mistbelt Forest fragments is predominantly promoted by indigenous forest cover and reduced in regions of unsuitable habitat (i.e. exotic timber plantations, grassland, agriculture, and residential land-cover). I concluded that i) positive effects of surrounding matrix quality in the landscape mediates the negative effects of habitat fragmentation on local forest bird ecological groups; ii) promoting local vegetation complexity could contribute to the loss of forest-dependent species (i.e. forest specialists); iii) habitat amount in the surrounding landscape was the predominantly important predictor of local avian diversity and promoted habitat connectivity among core forest patches of fragmented Southern Mistbelt Forest. Therefore, I recommend preserving and increasing forest cover in the landscape to ensure the long-term survival of forest species in this naturally fragmented ecosystem. Iqoqa Ukuhlukaniswa kwehlathi kuyinqubo lapho indawo yehlathi ihlukaniswa khona ibe yizingcezu ezincane nezizimele kakhulu ezishumekwe ngaphakathi kwe-matrix yokusetshenziswa komhlaba kwe-anthropogenic. Imithelela yokwanda kwemikhuba ye-anthropogenic ezungeze izinsalela zehlathi isongela ukuphikelela kwezinhlobo zezilwane njengoba izingcezu zendawo yokuhlala zihlukaniswa ngokwengeziwe yi-matrix, evimbela ukunyakaza kwezinhlobo zezilwane nokuhlakazeka, okubangela ukushabalala kwendawo lapho izimo ziba zimbi nakakhulu. Nokho, izimiso zamahlathi ahlukene ngokwemvelo zinezinhlobo ezikwazi ukumelana nezimo, kodwa izinselelo ezintsha ezitholwa yilezi zinhlobo manje zinemiphumela engaziwa. Lapha, nginqume ukuhlola ukuhlukahluka kwezinyoni zasendaweni emahlathini akhethiwe ase-Southern Mistbelt ahlukaniswe ngokwendalo KwaZulu-Natali naseMpumalanga Kapa, eNingizimu Afrika. Okokuqala, ngisebenzise indlela enezici eziningi ukuhlola imiphumela yokwakheka kwezwe (okungukuthi, ikhwalithi ye-matrix), ukuhlukaniswa kwendawo yokuhlala (okungukuthi, ibanga lokuhlukaniswa nosayizi wesiqephu) kanye nokuhlukahluka kwendawo yokuhlala (okungukuthi, inkimbinkimbi yesakhiwo sehlathi) ezinhlobonhlobo zezinyoni ze-alpha (i-taxonomic, i-functional, i-phylogenetic kanye ne-functional-phylogenetic diversity) yawo wonke umphakathi, okuhlangene okuncike emahlathini (okungukuthi uchwepheshe wamahlathi) kanye nezingancikile emahlathini (okungukuthi i-forestry generalist). Okwesibili, ngidalule ukuthi izici eziyinhloko zokwakheka kwezwe (okungukuthi inani lendawo yokuhlala, ukuhlukahluka kwe-matrix kanye nesilinganiso sebanga lokuhlukaniswa) kuthinte kanjani ukuhlukahluka kwezinyoni zasendaweni futhi nganquma ukubaluleka kokuhlukahluka kokwakheka kwezwe ngakunye kusetshenziswa amamodeli we-mixed-effect linear (LME). Okwesithathu, ngenze imephu yokuxhumana kweziqephu ezimqoka ze-Southern Mistbelt Forest ezinikeza ukuhlukahluka okuphezulu kakhulu (≥ 50 %) kwezinyoni ngokusebenzisa inhlanganisela yendlela engabizi kakhulu nendlela ye-ecological circuit theory, ukuhlonza izici zezwe ezikhuthaza noma ezithiya ukuxhumana kwendawo yokuhlala kanye nezinhlobo zehlathi ezikhethekile nezinomkhawulo wokuhlakazeka (i-Dove Lemon kanye ne-Aplopelia larvata) ukuze iqondise ukuxhumana kwendawo yemiphakathi yamahlathi ezinyoni endaweni ehlukene ye-mozayikhi yehlathi. Engikutholile kwembula: i) imiphumela emihle yekhwalithi ye-matrix ezungezile endaweni ilamula imiphumela engemihle yokuhlukana kwezindawo zokuhlala emaqenjini endawo ezinyoni zehlathi; ii) ukukhuthaza ubunkimbinkimbi bezitshalo zendawo kungaba nomthelela ekulahlekeni kwezinhlobo ezincike ehlathini (okungukuthi ongoti bamahlathi); iii) inani lendawo yokuhlala endaweni ezungezile laliyisibikezelo esibaluleke kakhulu sokuhlukahluka kwezinyoni zasendaweni kanye nokuthuthukiswa kokuxhumana kwendawo yokuhlala phakathi kweziqephu eziwumgogodla zamahlathi e-Southern Mistbelt Forest ehlukanisiwe. Ngakho-ke, ngincoma ukulondoloza nokwandisa ukumboza kwehlathi endaweni ukuze kuqinisekiswe ukusinda kwesikhathi eside kwezinhlobo zamahlathi kulesi simiso sezinto eziphilayo ezihlukene ngokwendalo. ItemAspects of monitoring wild and captive Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) populations in southern Africa. Izingxenye zokubhekelela uhlobo lwengwenya yasendle nevalelwe yaseNile (Crocodylus niloticus) e-Afrikha eseningizimu.(2021) Myburgh, Hendrik Albert.; Downs, Colleen Thelma.As biodiversity across the globe declines because of anthropogenic activities, the need for conservation efforts increases. For conservation efforts to be successful, it is imperative that detailed information about species and their populations; size and status within and outside of protected areas be collected. In freshwater systems, crocodile population demographics can provide an integrated view of ecosystem state, but the habitat and cryptic nature of crocodilians confound the derivation of population demographics for the taxa. Crocodile populations were historically monitored by fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter or limited spotlight surveys in those areas that are navigable by boat. These techniques are costly and labour-intensive; require specialised personnel and equipment, and are subject to observer bias and low accuracy in size class estimations. Furthermore, they produce population demographic data that is not verifiable as they rely on decisions and opinions of observers in the moment of surveying, often from fast-moving platforms. Lately, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) techniques have been shown to accurately and effectively count crocodiles, but they still require costly software and hardware packages. In this study, low-cost, open-source UAV techniques were developed as an alternative method to monitor and survey crocodilians, particularly Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus), both in captivity and in the wild. In South Africa, Nile crocodiles occur in open bedrock systems with relatively little riparian vegetation, an ideal scenario for the application of UAVs. The possibility of improved population demographic data for wild Nile crocodile populations by converting size data derived from UAVs to age data was explored by radiocarbon dating Nile crocodile claws. Morphometric correction factors applicable to UAV census are derived, and a fixed-wing survey is compared with a commercial-grade UAV survey of wild Nile crocodile populations in the Kruger National Park. The limitations and applicability of these approaches for crocodilian and other ecological studies were assessed. Their future applications in ecology and management are proposed. Iqoqa Njengoba impiliswanomvelo kuwo wonke umhlaba yehla ngenxa yezenzo ezidalwe ngabantu, isidingo sokongiwa kwemvelo siyakhula. Ukuze imizamo yokongiwa kwemvelo ibe impumelelo, kuyaphoqa ukuthi kuqoqwe ulwazi olunzulu mayelana nokuphilayo kanye nezinhlobo zakho, ubungako kanye nesigaba phakathi kanye nangaphandle kwezindawo ezivikelwe. Emanzini aphilayo, uhlobo lwemiphakathi yezingwenya zingasinika iso eliyinhlanganisela lesimo sohlalonhlaliswano yokuphilayo nokungaphili, kodwa isimo sendawo yokuhlala kanye nesingachazeki sididisa ukwehlukanisa ukutholakala komphakathi wezinhlobo zezingwenya. Imiphakathi yezingwenya yayibhekelelwa emandulo ngendizamshini ehlala phezulu emoyeni, indiza enophephela emhlane noma amasaveyi angemaningi agqamile kulezo zindawo okuhambekayo kuzo ngezikebhe. Lawa masu ayabiza futhi adinga amandla okusebenza, adinga abasebenzi abaqondene kanye nemishini yokusebenza, kanti futhi ancike ekuchemeni kobukelayo kanye nezinga eliphansi ngobungako besihlawumbiselo sohlobo. Okunye futhi, akhiqiza imininingo yohlobo lwemiphakathi engathembakali njengoba ethembele ezinqumeni kanye nemibono yababukela ngesikhathi sokwenza amasaveyi, okujwayele ukuthi kube izinhlaka ezihamba ngokushesha. Kamumva nje, amasu esithuthi ezingasetshenziswa muntu ezisemoyeni, i-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) asevezwe njengakhombisa ukubalwa kwezingwenya okuqondile nokunemiphumela emihle, kodwa asadinga ubuchwepheshe obubizayo kanye nezindodla zobuxhaxhaxha bobuchwepheshe. Kulolu cwaningo, okungabizi, amasu ezizinda ezivulekile e-UAV kwaqanjwa njengenye yendlela engasetshenziswa ukubhekelela nokusaveya izingwenya, kakhulukazi izingwenya zaseNile (Crocodylus niloticus), zozimbili ezivalelwe kanye nezasendle. ENingizimu Afrikha, izingwenya zaseNile zivela ekusetshenzisweni kwamadwalamsuka avulekile anotshalovikelo olungeluningi, okuyisibonelo esincomekayo sokusebenzisa ama-UAV. Ukuba khona kwemininingo ethuthukile yezinhlobo zemiphakathi yezingwenya zasendle zeNile ngokushintsha ubungako bemininingo etholakale kuma-UAV ukukhulisa imininingo kwaphenywa ngekhabhoni yomoya ukubona izindlawu zengwenya yaseNile. Izimo zokulungisa ukusebenza kokubala kwe-UAV kutholakele, kanti futhi isaveyi yophiko olunganyakazi luqhathaniswa nesaveyi ye-UAV yohlobo lokusebenza lwemiphakathi yohlobo lwengwenya yasendle yaseNile e-Kruger National Park. Imikhawuko kanye nokusebenzeka kwalezi zindlela zokubhekelela izingwenya kanye nezinye izicwaningo zezemvelo kwahlolwa. Ukusebenza kwayo kwesikhathi esizayo emvelweni kanye nokwenganyelwa kuyaphakanyiswa. ItemThe influence of the conservation of forests and public attitudes on the persistence of African crowned eagles in the mosaic of eThekwini Municipality, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.(2022) Maseko, Mfundo Sibongakonke Terrance.; Downs, Colleen Thelma.; Zungu, Manqoba Moses.Abstract available in PDF. ItemCrocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) meal diets as a potential for replacement of fishmeal protein in commercial production of Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus)(2022) Luthada-Raswiswi, Rendani Winnie.; Mukaratirwa, Samson.; O'Brien, Gordon Craig.Fishmeal production is mainly sourced from the forage fish species. Fish caught for fishmeal production potentially represents a loss in producing higher trophic level species in the ecosystem. Low stock abundance reduces ecosystem services such as food provisioning to other elements of the ecosystem. Increasing demand, unstable supply, and the high price of the fishmeal with the expansion of aquaculture made it necessary to search for alternative protein sources. Crocodiles are farmed mainly for producing skins used in the production of high-quality fashion accessories. However, the demand for crocodile meat, especially in South Africa, is very low and strict regulations are imposed onto the industry about the use and disposal of crocodile carcasses. This study was conducted to assess the nutritional value of crocodile meals and their suitability as a fishmeal replacement in animal feeds, especially fish. Systematic review and meta-analysis results showed the gap that some animal by-products, including crocodile meat, had not been assessed as protein sources in aquaculture or animal feeds. Different size groups of fish are not considered in studies when testing different alternatives for fishmeals. The nutritional values of Crocodylus niloticus derived meal obtained in the current study is of comparable quality for use in aquaculture feeds, compared to by-products meal quality reported for meal derived from bovine bones and meat, feathers, blood and other poultry by-products. There were similarities in the gross feed conversion ratio for fry and the specific growth rate for fingerlings of Oreochromis mossambicus among all the experimental diets fed. That means the Crocodylus niloticus meal is a suitable animal protein source for replacing fishmeal in Oreochromis mossambicus diets. Some haematological parameters such as red blood cells count, and haemoglobin concentrations were significantly different among Oreochromis mossambicus fed crocodile-based and commercial diets. However, platelets count, haematocrit value, mean cell volume, mean cell haemoglobin, and mean cell haemoglobin concentrations were not significantly different among all diets fed. More future studies are recommended for different levels of Crocodylus niloticus meal in other fish species, different size groups, and haematological parameters. This study provides new information to the aquaculture industry regarding reducing supply constraints imposed by high cost and competitive uses for fishmeal and waste management on crocodile farms. ItemForest mammalian community dynamics and human wildlife interactions in the Southern Mistbelt Forests of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, South Africa.(2021) Sosibo, Mbalenhle Thabile.; Downs, Colleen Thelma.; Ehlers Smith, Yvette Cathrine.; Ehlers Smith, David Alan.African and Asian forests are well known for their high faunal and floral diversity; however, many forests have been left degraded or cleared because of anthropogenic activities from the past and present. In particular, African forests have been heavily exploited for their timber resources and land conversion for anthropogenic activities such as agriculture,. South African forests, specifically the Southern Mistbelt Forests, have been subjected to heavy logging by colonial settlers and subsistence harvesting in recent times because of the logging of trees such as yellowwood species (Podocarpus and Afrocarpus spp.) and hunting of bushmeat species blue duiker (Philantomba monticola). The aim of the study was to assess the anthropogenic impacts on mammals occurring in the Southern Mistbelt forests of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces, as well as other uses of the forest and human-wildlife interactions. Study areas included the disjunct Southern Mistbelt Forests of the northern Eastern Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal provinces, South Africa. It was conducted in three different forest cluster areas: uMthatha, Glengarry/Weza [termed iNgeli hereafter] and Creighton with forest patches of varying size. We conducted camera-trap surveys between May 2018 – February 2019 during the wet (summer/spring) and dry (winter/autumn) seasons, resulting in one full 21-day survey for each camera-trap location per season. We used infrared motion detection camera-traps to monitor mammalian forest species at set camera-trap locations determined using a 400 m x 400 m systematic grid system overlaid onto Southern Mistbelt Forest patches in Arc GIS v10.5.1. We also conducted semi-structured interviews in all three areas from October to November 2019. When assessing microhabitat use by mammalian species, we found that mammalian species most often photographed during sampling seasons were bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) and samango monkey (Cercopithecus albogularis labiatus), with the least photographed species being serval (Leptailurus serval) and African wild cat (Felis silvestris cafra). Land-use data around each forest patch were extracted, with settlements, exotic timber plantations and grasslands identified as the dominant adjacent land-uses. The importance of exotic tree plantations surrounding indigenous forest patches to the persistence of mammalian species was highlighted. The maturity and condition of exotic timber plantations surrounding forest patches in our study also varied and may have influenced the area's use and suitability by mammalian species. Creighton was the only study area where human settlements were a dominant land-use around patches. The samango monkey had the second highest mean occupancy across all sampling areas and land-use types. Forest mammals make considerable contributions to the functioning of forest ecosystems. We evaluated the response of forest mammal functional diversity and species richness to factors such as patch size. Species β-diversity was greatly driven by turnover and functional β- diversity was driven by nestedness; therefore, management implications of these forests and associated mammalian communities suggest that all patches should be considered a priority for conservation. Due to different management implications, if nestedness is dominant, forest patches that have a higher diversity of species traits and species richness should be prioritised for conservation. Lastly, we aimed to quantify and assess the dynamics of forest use and hunting of mammalian species in communities close to forest patches and found that ungulates are the preferred choice for consumption in lower-income settlements which is supported by many other studies. Different species were hunted for various reasons such as: consumption, monetary gain (bushmeat trade and selling of hides) as well as retaliatory killing of predators hunting livestock. However, respondents shared that the forests are important to them and to protect them guards would be a good choice as well as education and awareness about sustainable use. There is a paucity of information about the overall mammal community inhabiting these forests and this study has highlighted which species inhabit these forests as well as their forest utilisation and how anthropogenic activities affect species populations. Furthermore, it highlighted that communities close to these forests see these forests as areas of high conservation importance. ItemControlling woody plant encroachment in a southern African savanna.(2021) Monegi, Piet.; Tsvuura, Zivanai.; Ward, David Mercer.; Tjelele, Julius Tlou.Woody plant encroachment is considered one of the most extensive forms of degradation affecting savannas in arid and semi-arid ecosystems. Thus, reactive interventions such as chemical and mechanical controls, as well as fire application remains the norm in management of woody plant encroachment. I conducted a series of woody plant control experiments at the Agricultural Research Council’s Roodeplaat experimental ranch, situated in Gauteng Province, South Africa. The first experiment was a tree-thinning study at two savanna sites that differ in soil texture and woody species. Site 1 was on previously cultivated clay-dominated soils characterized by severe soil erosion and was encroached by Vachellia tortilis. Site 2 has never been cultivated and was on sandy soils with several woody species. At each site, 24 30 m × 30 m plots separated by 5 m wide fire breaks were established. Trees were removed to the approximate equivalents of 0% (control-no removal), 10%, 20%, 50%, 75% and 100% (complete removal of trees), followed by herbicide application on half of the stumps for each plot. I also investigated the effectiveness of Tree Poppers® (weed wrench) as a low-cost mechanical control tool to physically uproot seedlings and saplings of woody plants. To examine the effectiveness of the Tree Popper®, I used eight dominant tree species that were grouped into three height classes (0-49 cm, 50-99 cm, 100-150 cm) of ten seedlings and saplings per species per height class. In addition, investigated the effects of five years of annual burning on vegetation dynamics in a Vachellia karroo woodland. To determine the effects of annual burning on vegetation dynamics, plots (0.25 ha) established in 2013 were used. These studies are summarized below: (1) I determined the combined effects of tree species, tree thinning, stump diameter and herbicide application on resprouting patterns of woody plant species (Dichrostachys cinerea, Ehretia crispa, E. rigida, Gymnosporia buxifolia, Pappea capensis, Searsia lancea, S. caffra, Vachellia karroo, V. nilotica, V. robusta, V. tortilis and Ziziphus mucronata) that encroach study site 1. All the tree species in this study resprouted after cutting. Herbicide application significantly reduced the resprouting ability of D. cinerea, E. rigida, V. robusta and Z. mucronata. Tree removal positively influenced the resprouting ability and vigour of E. crispa only. The diameter of stumps was an important factor in determining resprouting ability, with shoot production decreasing with increasing stump diameter. The findings from this study suggest that woody plants are more likely to resprout and survive as juveniles than as adults after cutting. (2) I found no significant differences in the number of seedlings and saplings uprooted by Tree Popper®. However, there were significant differences in the number of juveniles uprooted using a Tree Popper® with a few individuals of Vachellia species uprooted. The effectiveness of the Tree Popper® may be due to differences in plant morphological structure, particularly the root system. The Tree Popper® is not an effective tool for controlling the Vachellia species used in this study. However, communal ranchers may mechanically control shallow-rooted tree seedlings with the Tree Popper® but not deep-rooted ones, specifically Vachellia species. (3) In the tree thinning experiment, I determined the effects of different tree thinningintensities on grass species-richness, composition, cover, β diversity, and soil fertility. I found that tree thinning did not have any significant effects on grass species-richness in either study site. However, we found a clear separation of different grass species among the treatments over the study period. Different levels of tree thinning increased the abundance of two dominant grass species (i.e. Digitaria eriantha and Panicum maximum) in both study sites, particularly in moderate (50%) and high removal (75% and 100%) treatments. However, the nitrophilous grass (i.e. P. maximum) will likely decline in abundance with time, particularly in the 100% thinning treatment because the ecological process that is responsible for N-fixation is no longer existent. Contrastingly, I found no evidence that tree thinning affects the amunt of soil cover. In addition, tree thinning did not have a significant impact on soil fertility in either study site. I recommend maintaining a stand density of 50% in rangeland affected by woody plant encroachment. In this study, 50% thinning created an opportunity for different palatable grass species to increase in abundance, which may help to increase forage production. (4) I determined the effects of different tree removal-intensities on grass production, tree-seedling establishment and growth, and the growth of the remaining large trees. In site 1, tree-removal treatments (i.e. 75 and 100%) significantly reduced grass biomass production after the first growing season, with no effect after the second season. In site 2, tree removal significantly increased grass biomass production. I found no significant effect of tree removal on tree seedling establishment in site 1. In site 2, tree removal had a significantly negative effect on overall tree seedling establishment. In both sites, there were no significant differences in tree seedling growth. Moderate (50%) to high (75%) removal of trees had a positive effect on the growth of remaining large trees in both study sites. I found that increased and/or diminished grass biomass production plays a vital role on tree seedling recruitment. Reduced tree competition facilitates the growth of the remaining large trees. An implication of these findings is that regardless of the substantial costs of woody plant control, the recovery of key ecosystem services such as an increased forage production may not be realised. However, this may be system-specific. In other systems, the absence of management interventions such as tree removal may compromise provision of ecosystem services and ecosystem functioning. (5) In the fire experiment, I investigated the effects of five years of annual burning on the density of young and adult Vachellia karroo plants. This study also aimed to investigate the effects of annual burning on tree growth (i.e. height, stem diameter and canopy size). The results supported the “fire-trap” paradigm by demonstrating substantially higher densities of young plants in the burned plots than in the unburned plots. In addition, the recruitment of young plants and saplings into adult trees was significantly higher in the unburned plots than in the burned plots. V. karroo populations substantially increased in growth (height and basal diameter) in the unburned plots. Different grass species changed in abundance in response to annual burning. However, I found no significant changes in grass species diversity and richness between the treatments. I found that the removal of the grass layer by fire and repeated topkill increased the number of young V. karroo individuals. Annual burning limited V. karroo juveniles and saplings from reaching an adult size class that may have detrimental effects on the herbaceous layer. I demonstrated that grass species composition is more prone to fireinduced changes than species diversity and richness in our study area. In conclusion, I show that managers of savanna rangelands may use annual burning to achieve specific vegetation structural objectives. This thesis demonstrated that mechanical- and chemical -control, as well as fire application influences the structure and functioning of savannas. By creating gaps that promote grass production, these management practices may assist increase the economic viability of savanna ecosystems. However, despite the popular belief that reduced tree densities promote ecosystem functions, this thesis demonstrates that the impact of control techniques (especially tree thinning) on forage production vary across savanna sites. This thesis also shows that management with prescribed annual fire reduced woody plant encroachment across the 5-year study, suggesting that fire management can be beneficial and should be explored as a management method. ItemEvolution of tangle-veined flies: systematics, biogeography and functional traits in southern African Nemestrininae (Nemestrinidae)(2021) Theron, Genevieve Lee.; Van der Niet, Timotheus.; Ellis, Alan G.; Anderson, Bruce C.; Johnson, Steven Dene.The evolution of traits and biogeography of the three southern African endemic genera of the Nemestrinidae: Moegistorhynchus, Prosoeca and Stenobasipteron. These genera are of particular interest due to the exaggerated mouth parts of some species and their role as important pollinators of numerous plants, including rare and endangered species. Most taxonomic studies on southern African nemestrinids date back 50 or more years ago, and the group lacks a phylogenetic framework, thus hindering comprehensive study of their systematics, trait evolution and biogeography. In this thesis, I evaluate the boundaries of a species complex in Prosoeca and reconstruct a phylogenetic framework for the southern African Nemestrininae. Furthermore, I use the phylogenetic framework to reconstruct the evolution of proboscis length and biogeographic patterns. To delimit species in the Prosoeca peringueyi complex, I quantified morphological variation and established whether this was associated with genetic variation within and between gene regions. Phylogenetic analysis of the complex using the mitochondrial COI gene revealed two well-supported clades, that are supported by morphological traits, one of which is described as a new species. Four gene regions were also used to reconstruct a phylogenetic tree of the three southern African Nemestrininae genera, including 58 morphospecies. The topology suggests that a monophyletic Moegistorhynchus is sister to a paraphyletic Prosoeca, with Stenobasipteron nested within Prosoeca. Half of the morphospecies in this phylogeny did not correspond to described species, thus highlighting a substantial taxonomic impediment in this group. The phylogenetic tree was used to reconstruct the evolution of proboscis length in the southern African Nemestrininae. Stochastic character mapping showed transitions between all states (short, long and very long), but shifts occurred more frequently from shorter to longer lengths. The ancestral proboscis state was estimated to be longer than the median proboscis length of the clade. Lastly, I reconstructed the biogeographical patterns of the southern African Nemestrininae. A Fynbos origin during the Miocene was estimated for this clade, with multiple shifts between biomes along the tree. Together, these results illustrate the need for further systematic and taxonomic work in this clade, as well as in the Nemestrinidae more broadly to gain a firmer understanding of their phylogenetic relationships and diversity. The evolution of proboscis length and biome occupancy appear to be labile within this clade. This work provides a phylogenetic framework for the southern African clade of Nemestrininae and contributes to our understanding of the patterns of evolution, diversification and migration of these ecologically important pollinators. ItemEffects of land-use changes on the distribution and use of Ficus species by frugivores in the urban mosaic landscape of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.(2021) Raji, Islamiat Abidemi.; Downs, Colleen Thelma.Land-use change is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. Over the years, these changes potentially reduced ecosystems capacity to sustain food production for vertebrates. Ficus (figs; Moraceae) is one of the largest plant genera in lowland tropical rainforests, with more than 850 described species distributed worldwide and 124 species in Africa. Fig trees occupy diverse habitats and attain a wide range of growth forms, including large woody climbers, hemiepiphytes, trees, and shrubs. Over 1200 species globally feed on Ficus fruits and over 10% of the world’s birds and 6% of mammals consume figs, making them the most widely consumed plant genus. Fig-fruiting phenology is such that they are generally available during periods of food scarcity and may influence entire faunal communities, particularly as a dry season staple food. Therefore, it is a well-known key fruit resource component in tropical forests and one of the most important genera sustaining numerous frugivores across different landscapes. In a mutually beneficial relationship, the plants also benefit from seed dispersal by frugivores taking seeds away from the parent plants to locations of fewer pathogens, enhancing germination and plant recruitment. This study was concerned with the interactions between fruit-producing plants and fruit-eating animals across an urban mosaic landscape in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Specifically, the study focused on Ficus spp. of conservation importance and keystone species. Despite the critical role that figs play in many frugivores' ecology, there is relatively little information on the distribution and diversity of Ficus species along forest-urban gradients in relation to different land uses and frugivore foraging behaviours in the study area. Details of the relationships between different components of the frugivore-seed disperser and different fig species also remain unclear. Thus, this study enhances the understanding of the role of birds, bats and other mammals in seed dispersal, germination, and the effect of land-use changes on fig-frugivore interactions, which is critical for informing conservation and management strategies. ItemDiversity of edible insects and their related indigenous knowledge: evidence from KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces, South Africa.(2021) Hlongwane, Zabentungwa Thakasile.; Munyai, Thinandavha Caswell.; Slotow, Robert Hugh.Entomophagy is an ancient indigenous practice that has played a significant role in human nutrition around the world. In addition, the traditional use of edible insects forms an important part of food culture in Africa. Edible insects are widely consumed across the African continent for their taste, nutritional value, or as an emergency food source during times of food shortage. They have been proposed and recommended as a sustainable food source that can assure food security, because edible insects are rich in protein, fats, amino acids, iron, zinc, and energy. As a result, edible insects play an essential role in human nutrition. In addition, the trade of edible insects plays an important role in improving livelihoods in developing countries. However, little is known about the diversity and nutritional composition of various insects consumed in South Africa. In addition, little is being done to document traditional knowledge on the consumption of insects, and processes involved in harvesting, processing, and preparing edible insects. This study aimed to document indigenous knowledge regarding the consumption of edible insects, their diversity and distribution, and their nutritional composition. This was done by (i) reviewing existing literature on the diversity of insect and their nutritional status in Africa. (ii) documenting consumption patterns, methods, or techniques used in collecting and preparing insects in South Africa. (iii) determining the nutritional composition of some major insect groups consumed in Africa, (iv) determining the most preferred insect groups, and (v) by documenting the socio-economic benefits of trading insects. Closed and open-ended questions were conducted in various rural areas in five and four local municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Limpopo. To document indigenous knowledge about trading, consumption, collection and preparation methods used in these provinces. Dried samples of four insect groups were procured from different markets across Vhembe district, Limpopo Province. The nutritional composition of the procured insect types was analysed using the standard Association of Official Analytical Chemist (AOAC) methods. A systematic review was conducted to determine the diversity and nutritional composition of edible insects consumed in Africa. A systematic review search resulted in 98 eligible papers listing 212 edible insect species from eight orders that are used as food in Africa. The highest protein (range: 20–80%) and fat (range: 10–50%) content were recorded in order Lepidoptera. While the highest carbohydrates (range: 7–54%) content was reported in order Coleoptera. Majority of the people still practice entomophagy in Limpopo while, there are only a few people consuming insects in KwaZulu-Natal. Gynanisa caterpillar, Gonimbrasia belina (mopane worm), termites, Encosternum delegorguei (stink bug), Cirina forda (emperor moth), Locustana spp. (brown locust), Zenocerous spp. (grasshopper), Carebara vidua (ant), and Cicadoidea spp. (cicada) were used as food in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal. From these, mopane worms and termites were the most preferred species. These insects were primarily collected from the wild, and consumed either fried, boiled, roasted, sundried, or as relish. Nutritional benefits and tradition were the primary reason for consuming insects in the two provinces. However, religion and discomfort associated with consuming insects were the main reasons for not consuming insects. Findings from the nutritional analysis of four insect types showed that termite (soldiers/ workers) had the highest protein and iron content, while Gynanisa caterpillar had the highest zinc content. The ranges of the percentage contribution of the insects studied relative to the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for protein amongst different age groups, indicated that the insects would contribute significantly to addressing protein deficiencies, 89.5-160.4% EAR for 4-8 years old children and 29.9-53.6% EAR for childbearing women (19-50 years). However, because Gonimbrasia belina are consumed in a relatively higher portion size than the other edible insects, it would be a good source of protein for different population groups. Generally, boiling with or without salt added resulted in a significant increase in protein, iron, and zinc content of Gonimbrasia belina samples. On the other hand, frying resulted in a significant decrease in protein content of Gonimbrasia belina samples. Five insect groups were traded for cash income in Vhembe district, Limpopo province. Of these, mopane worm was the most traded insect. Trading insects provided financial support and cash income to unemployed people in this province. Income generated from trading insects range from R100 - R200 ($6, 2 - $12, 3) per week to above R2000 ($123, 3) per week with the majority of traders making an income of R600 -R1000 ($36, 9-$61, 6) per week. Unemployment and poverty were the main reason for trading insects. Despite the economic benefit associated with trading insects, few governmental organizations in Limpopo included edible insects in economic development strategies. In addition, insect trading took place in the informal markets along the street, pavements, and on table stalls made of cardboard and wood. Safety and hygiene were the major issues of concern stated by the respondents in Vhembe district. Therefore, government need to provide infrastructure and financial support to improve the trading conditions of edible insects. Also, policy and legislation that recognise and govern the consumption, trading, and harvesting of edible insects are required, because edible insects play an important role in income generation. In addition, edible insects contribute to food and nutrition security in developing countries with chronic nutrient deficiencies. Therefore, the consumption of insects should be promoted and encouraged in poor communities. ItemAspects of common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) behavioural ecology and their consequences in managed systems in South Africa.(2020) Fritsch, Camille Jacques-Armand.; Downs, Colleen Thelma.Abstract available in PDF. ItemAspects of the ecology of three mongoose species along a rural–urban landscape gradient of KwaZulu- Natal, South Africa.(2020) Streicher, Jarryd Peter.; Downs, Colleen Thelma.; Ramesh, Tharmalingam.Many small carnivore species are of particular concern for conservation because of their elusive behaviour, diminutive size and crepuscular habits. Management and research tend to be challenging and thus is often limited. Several members of the Herpestidae family fall into this research dead zone, including the large grey mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon), slender mongoose (Galerella sanguinea), white-tailed mongoose (Ichneumia albicauda) and marsh or water mongoose (Atilax paludinosus). The distribution range and other aspects of the ecology of these and other such species, has remained vague for much of the sub-tropical regions of southern Africa because of the scarcity of comprehensive data. There is little understanding of the basic ecology of these mongoose species, and limited progress has been made in understanding the tolerance of these species within a changing environment. These species of mongoose appear to persist across KwaZulu-Natal’s (KZN), South Africa, anthropogenically modified habitats (farmlands and urban). Small carnivore species, such as mongooses, can provide models of how medium-sized carnivores tolerate differing degrees of anthropogenic land-use change. A global review of the current knowledge and research effort for urban mammalian mesocarnivores was conducted. In the last decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of studies that focus on medium-sized mammalian carnivores. Disproportionate levels of urban studies exist for mesocarnivores. Several species have been comprehensively studied in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. These two developed countries held more than half of all studies on urban mammalian mesocarnivores. Areas of the world that are undergoing rapid urbanisation have the most significant deficiency of research. Across Africa, the spatial ecology of the Herpestidae family remains relatively poorly studied. We investigated how anthropogenic land-use change affects aspects of the ecology of three co-existing mongoose species (large grey, water and white-tailed) in the agricultural setting of the KZN Midlands. Individuals of these three species of mongooses were trapped, collared and tracked using GPS-UHF (ultra-high frequency). The results presented show that the three focal species have different spatial requirements and movements from previous stated in literature. The natural habitat and farmland mosaic of the KZN Midlands are segregating the preferred habitats into small fragments. These niche fragments are intensely used by each species and allow them to co-exist in these anthropogenically modified environments. Besides these species’ generalist nature, their behavioural plasticity may assist them in persisting in anthropogenically modified landscapes. In the absence of apex predatory control, an expansion in the range and population number of Herpestidae species is expected. This study provides crucial information on the spatio-temporal ecology of large grey, water and white-tailed mongoose in the KZN Midlands. The spatial movements of the three co-existing species in this study highlighted the variability that is present at a species and individual level. Further research is required to address the human–wildlife conflict that takes place locally. The urban aspect of the large grey, water and white-tailed mongoose ecology is also understudied, and we recommend further research be targeted. The spatial ecology of water mongoose in the urban green space matrix of the Upper Highway Area of eThekwini, KZN, was subsequently investigated. This was to compare aspects of their ecology between fragmented natural farmland and urban mosaic using similar methods. Water mongooses occurred at a high density in the fragmented green Durban Metropolitan Open Space System (D’MOSS). Insight into the spatial ecology of urban water mongoose (home range, core area utilisation, overlap and habitat use) determined using GPS telemetry data from 14 water mongooses from July 2018 - October 2019. Water mongooses had constricted spatial movements that were highly dependent on natural refugia, and individuals intentionally avoided built-up areas of the urban matrix. The confined nature of these green spaces consequently resulted in home range sizes that were significantly smaller than their farmland conspecifics. However, the species behavioural plasticity and generalist nature has allowed the species to occur at higher population densities in the green spaces of the urban matrix of the Upper Highway Area. Furthermore, the effects of urban sprawl on the dietary ecology of water mongooses using faecal analyses was conducted. Water mongooses scat samples (n = 104) were opportunistically collected and with the aid of members of the Kloof Conservancy during the study. Urban water mongooses consume a diverse array of dietary items (9 categories), which is dominated by three categories (relative frequency of occurrence: crustaceans 35.7%, invertebrates 19.9%, small mammals 19.1% and other 25.2%). Seasonal variation in the diet only occurred for crustaceans and invertebrates with the other dietary categories consumed equally throughout the seasons. Additionally, it was demonstrated that urban water mongooses are supplementing their diets with anthropogenic waste (chicken bones, plastic particulates and cigarette butts). The broad diversity in dietary categories and supplementation of anthropogenic waste demonstrates the generalist opportunistic feeding behaviour and adaptability of the species in an urban matrix. An online questionnaire survey was conducted to investigate socio-ecological attitudes and general perspectives towards mammalian mesocarnivores across a land-use gradient (rural–urban) from the uMgungundlovu to eThekwini Municipalities of KZN. Significant trends were assessed using the frequency of responses. The public held a range of different perspectives. Overall, respondents viewed mesocarnivores as non-threatening and vital for the environment. However, black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) were commonly identified as a problematic pest species, that subsequently are targets of predator control pressures by rural participants. The survey also identified that smaller, behaviourally flexible species (mongoose species and cape genet Genetta tigrina) were commonly sighted and are potentially increasing in both land-use types in the absence of competition and predatory control. Vehicle collisions are the primary cause of mesocarnivore fatality reported by participants of the survey. The impact of mesocarnivores was perceived differently along a land–use gradient which links to levels of interaction. The study emphasises the importance of citizen science and community engagement when attempting to understand the drivers of human–wildlife interactions and potential mitigation strategies. The present multifaceted study has improved our understanding of solitary members of the Herpestidae family and how anthropogenic changes affect them across a land-use gradient. Furthermore, the behavioural flexibility and adaptability of mongooses in enabling them to persist at differing degrees of anthropogenic pressure were evident. However, the size class of mammalian mesocarnivores remains understudied in Africa, and this is of concern in a rapidly developing region. ItemBuilding a conservation strategy for the harpy eagle in the Amazon Forest.(2020) Pereira de Miranda, Everton Bernardo.; Downs, Colleen Thelma.; Peres, Carlos Augusto.Apex predators are threatened worldwide and are considered a priority in the conservation biology agenda. Their decline is associated with habitat loss and degradation, and persecution arising from perceived and actual conflict with humans. The trophic cascades emerging from the loss of apex predators can disrupt the regulation of prey populations, seed dispersal, tree composition and nutrient cycles derived from carcass deposition, with widespread consequences for biodiversity. The harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja) is the Earth's largest eagle and is considered a flagship species for Amazon Forest conservation. Harpy eagles are threatened by poaching and by loss and degradation of habitat. This thesis is comprised of nine chapters—being seven of them data chapters—related to harpy eagle biology and conservation. Chapters 1 and 9 are respectively an introduction and a synthesis about the subjects I approached. In Chapter 2, I created a predictive model of the species range aimed at understanding the current distribution, the contraction of the species distribution compared with the original range, and sites that currently have notable potential for reintroduction of harpy eagles. In Chapter 3, I analyse the effects of environmental parameters such as moonlight and temperature on prey selection probability. In Chapter 4, I aimed to establish the factors that drive the killing of harpy eagles by local people, including the relation between livestock predation and harpy killing. Chapter 5, I explore the nesting, timing and rates of visitation to nests by parent and fledged eagles as it relates to the viability of harpy nests as ecotourism attractions. In Chapter 6, I conducted a meta-analysis that synthesises data on nest tree selection by harpy eagles with the tree species preferences by loggers. In Chapter 7, I test the hypothesis that harpy eagles are agents of accumulation of nutrients, by concentrating decaying remains of prey items at nest sites over decades, thereby biomagnifying soil and foliage nutrient profiles. In Chapter 8, I describe rates of prey delivery by harpy eagles to their nests, and the composition of this prey, to understand the effects of forest loss on harpy eagle feeding ecology. This multi-faceted set of topics were combined in the field with a new, responsible ecotourism strategy focused on harpy eagles. Subsequently, I hope to build an evidence-based, economically-viable conservation strategy for the largest eagle on Earth, as well as to understand their keystone function of harpy eagles in Neotropical forest ecosystems. ItemTaxonomic, functional, and avian community dynamics in selected Southern Mistbelt Forests of southern KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, South Africa.(2020) Gumede, Silindile Thobeka.; Downs, Colleen Thelma.; Ehlers Smith, David Alan.; Ehlers Smith, Yvette Cathrine.Human population increase and landscape transformation result in the reduction of natural habitats, such as forests, causing changes in forest patch composition, habitat amount, patch size, isolation, shape, and edges. This is challenging specialist such as Orange Ground-thrush (Geokichla gurneyi) and Lemon Dove (Aplopelia larvata) species unable to survive in fragmented habitats and also influencing the composition and distribution of avian species assemblages. Therefore, the main aims of this multifaceted study were to (1) assess the habitat requirements of two forest specialised bird species, the Orange Ground-thrush (Geokichla gurneyi) and the Lemon Dove (Aplopelia larvata); (2) identify if avian assemblage diversity and species functional trait diversity show consist patterning across different landscapes in a forest ecosystem; (3) determine the influence of vegetation structures on the taxonomic and functional diversity of avian forest species, and (4) modelling how to connect forest patches of higher functional diversity. In 2018-2019, we conducted a series of camera-trap surveys of 21- day periods and fixed-radius point-count surveys at 420 sites across 94 forest patches of Southern Mistbelt Forest of southern KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, South Africa, during the breeding and non-breeding seasons in conjunction with surveys of microhabitat structural covariates. Firstly, we modelled the probability of occupancy and detection for the selected two species, which showed that forest specialist species prefer a highly diverse habitat structure. Secondly, we quantified functional diversity measures based on species’ trait per patch to measure the influence of habitat and landscape configuration on each measure. This resulted in functional diversity measures which were highly influenced by patch size, the distance between patches and diverse landscape and habitat. Thirdly, we conducted RLQ analyses to examine the association between avian functional traits and microhabitat structures present at each forest patch.We found there was a significant difference in vegetation structure and species richness between forest patches. Lastly, we ranked the functional diversity measures scores of avian communities present at each forest patch to identify core habitat patches responsible for the contribution of high functional diversity measures. Protection of natural forest habitat and diverse landscapes is important in preserving avian communities. ItemPollinator-driven divergence among populations of a self-fertilizing lily, Hesperantha coccinea (Iridaceae).(2021) Cozien, Ruth Jenny.; Johnson, Steven Dene.; Harder, Lawrence David.Two major trends in floral evolution – pollinator shifts and the evolution of autonomous selffertilisation – are generally considered alternative evolutionary responses to pollen-limitation of plant reproductive success. However, pollinator-specialised species often are also autofertile. The apparent contradiction of “opposing contrivances” for attracting pollinators and reproducing independently of them, may represent an optimal Best-of-Both-Worlds strategy whereby delayed self-fertilisation provides reproductive assurance in unpredictable pollination environments. In this thesis, I demonstrate pollinator-driven divergence among autofertile populations of Hesperantha coccinea (Iridaceae) based on evidence of local adaptation to different pollinators and experimental quantification of the contributions of pollinators and autonomous self-fertilisation to reproductive success. Floral colour, morphology, orientation and nectar characteristics differ between populations pollinated by a butterfly or a longproboscid fly. Reciprocal translocation of plants, assessment of pollinator effectiveness and preference experiments demonstrate that this intraspecific divergence involved adaptation to the morphology and preferences of the locally-dominant pollinators at low and high elevations, creating a geographic mosaic of floral variation. Despite this divergence, reproduction by both ecotypes involves a combination of pollinator-mediated outcrossing and autonomous self-fertilisation. Hand-pollinations showed self-compatibility and high autofertility in both ecotypes. Nevertheless, analysis of SSR markers revealed mixed selfing and outcrossing in populations of both colour forms. Most autonomous self-pollination occurred late during a flower’s lifespan, as expected for Best-of- Both-Worlds reproduction. Furthermore, similar performance of selfed and outcrossed progeny from three populations in a greenhouse indicated little genetic cost of selfing. Emasculation experiments showed extensive variation in the relative contributions of autonomous self-pollination and pollinators to fecundity among populations and flowering seasons. Overall, pollinator activity and autonomous self-fertilisation accounted for 75% and 25% of fecundity, respectively. The contribution of autonomous self-fertilisation varied among populations from zero to more than 90% of seed set and differed within populations between years by an average of 30%. The relative importance of pollinators and autonomous self-fertilisation did not vary geographically in relation to proximity to range edge, flower number, size, or herkogamy. This independence identifies autonomous self-fertilisation as part of a stable Best-of-Both-Worlds strategy employed by H. coccinea to contend with unpredictable pollination. Weak inbreeding depression in combination with conditions otherwise consistent with Best-of-Both-Worlds reproduction suggests that the importance of siring advantages of pollinator-mediated pollen transfer have been underestimated in these systems. ItemHabitat use of Long-crested Eagles in human-modified landscapes of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.(2019) Maphalala, Machawe Innocent.; Downs, Colleen Thelma.; Monadjem, Ara.; Bildstein, Keith L.Loss of natural habitats due to land use change is threatening biodiversity globally, a cause for concern given the resulting loss of essential ecosystem services. Conservation of biodiversity within human-modified landscapes has become a necessity to halt further loss of biodiversity. The Long-crested Eagle Lophaetus occipitalis is an example of a species that can be managed within human-modified landscapes because it occurs in such landscapes, and the protection of its habitat may benefit other species that use the same habitats. The present study aimed to quantify the habitat use of Long-crested Eagles in human-modified landscapes of KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, at various spatial scales and to make recommendations for the conservation of this species in such environments. Biodiversity in KwaZulu-Natal is threatened by anthropogenic activities that include agriculture, timber plantations and built environment. Between August 2016 and September 2017, twelve Long-crested Eagle adults were tagged with geographic positioning system (GPS) transmitters in the KwaZulu-Natal Province. Telemetry data from the tagged eagles were used to estimate sizes of home ranges and habitat selection within home ranges. Home ranges of males and females were 420 ± 180 ha (n = 5) and 315 ± 161 ha (n = 4), respectively, using the kernel density estimator method (href 95%), and were not significantly different, suggesting similar ranging behaviour between sexes. The home range size of the eagles was relatively smaller than estimates reported from other parts of South Africa which may be an indication of high quality habitats for the species in KwaZulu-Natal Province. Home ranges in rural environments predominantly comprised of cropland (33%) and savanna (22%), whereas in suburban environments they comprised of settlements (34%) and exotic tree plantations (23%). In rural and suburban landscapes, the eagles positively selected for natural patches such as wetlands, natural forest, natural forest edge and savanna but avoided exotic tree plantations. Long-crested Eagles nested and roosted in the natural forests available within their home ranges. Road surveys were used to determine land cover variables associated with Long-crested Eagle site occupancy at the landscape scale. ‘Cropland’ was the only land cover variable associated with occupancy and was positively associated with the area of cropland (β = 4.71 ± 2.28). Such results suggest that the apparent increase in abundance of Long-crested Eagles may be partly attributed to increase in cropland area. Although the influence of natural habitats was not significant at the landscape scale, it is less likely that the eagles selected territories based on the amount of cropland alone because they also needed nesting sites in addition to foraging habitats. Overall, Long-crested Eagles appear to be using edges of cultivated fields that have natural vegetation and hunting perches, and thus gaining improved access to prey. Natural patches of habitat add to the heterogeneity of agricultural landscapes making them more suitable for this species, as supported by the habitat preference observed within home ranges results. Wildlife friendly management of farms whereby natural habitats are retained appears to benefit Long-crested Eagles in agricultural landscapes. Admission records from a specialist raptor rehabilitation centre in Pietermaritzburg were examined to identify common threats facing raptors in KwaZulu-Natal and determine factors that could be used to predict the outcome of rehabilitation. The major causes of admission to the rehabilitation centre were collision related injuries (52.1%), grounded birds (11.6%) and orphaned chicks (9.5%). Only the variable ‘reason for admission’ was a significant predictor of the outcome of rehabilitation. Raptors with no severe injuries such as orphaned chicks and grounded birds were more likely to have successful rehabilitation treatment than raptors suffering from collision injuries. In cases where triage is necessary, rehabilitation centres can make such decisions based on the nature of the injuries as this study has demonstrated that birds suffering from collision injuries were less likely to have successful rehabilitation. In the wake of rapidly changing environments, conservation of biodiversity should not be left to protected areas alone, instead people should work together to make human-modified landscapes more habitable to wildlife. The presence of Long-crested Eagles on private properties should be an inspiration to do more to conserve wildlife. ItemAspects of the ecology of African woolly-necked storks (Ciconia microscelis) in an anthropogenic changing landscape in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.(2018) Thabethe, Vuyisile.; Downs, Colleen Thelma.Urbanisation is the fastest-growing forms of anthropogenic land use change and a major threat to biodiversity worldwide. However, despite the negative impacts of urbanisation on native species, some species persist in urbanised environments and this thesis aimed to examine one such species, the African woolly-necked stork (Ciconia microscelis). African woolly-necked storks have recently colonised urbanised environments in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and are now common in suburban areas in particular. Despite its proximity to human settlements and recent high abundance in suburban areas, knowledge of the African woolly-necked stork remains poorly documented in South Africa. Therefore, this thesis aimed to investigate the aspects of ecology of African woolly-necked storks within the suburban landscape to determine what factors facilitate their ability to persist in these environments. Firstly, I assessed the long-term trends in occupancy, colonisation and extinction of African woolly-necked storks as a function of change in land cover across KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. This was accomplished by applying dynamic occupancy models to Counts in South Africa. African woolly-necked stork wetland occupancy was relatively stable (ψ = 0.37-0.39) across years. However, they rapidly extended their distribution range to urbanised environments, becoming common in man-made wetlands. Overall, this study found that the increased area of anthropogenic areas led to an increase in the probability of wetland colonisation by African woolly-necked storks. Secondly, I investigated the foraging opportunities that might be responsible for the recent colonisation of urbanised environment by African woolly-necked storks. I found that a significant number of householders (71%) deliberately fed African woolly-necked storks daily throughout the year and the majority provided meat while others fed inappropriate food such as bread. Furthermore, I found that, African woolly-necked storks were relatively habituated in urban areas of KwaZulu-Natal, with some even feeding from hand and others going inside homes to find the supplemental food. These results showed that the African woolly-necked stork is successfully utilising and exploiting anthropogenic food – a novel behaviour for this species. Thirdly, given that the selection of appropriate nest sites has major implications on reproduction success and survival of urban bird species, I was interested to determine if African woolly-necked storks bred in urbanised areas and, if so, which features of the nest site and surrounding habitat influenced their occupancy. I found 30 African woolly-necked stork nests in suburban areas of KwaZulu-Natal. African woolly-necked storks have successfully established breeding sites in suburban areas (mostly in domestic gardens), especially near swimming pools, while exotic pine (Pinus elliottii) and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.) trees were the most preferred trees. Anthropogenic structures were also used as nesting sites suggesting a nesting behaviour shift. Lastly, after acquiring evidence that African woolly-necked storks successfully utilise anthropogenic food and have established a breeding population in urban areas, I was interested to know what food they provisioned to their nestlings. Furthermore, I investigated the breeding behaviour of African woolly-necked storks using direct observations and infrared camera traps during three breeding seasons (2015-2017). Although anthropogenic food was provided to nestlings, African woolly-necked storks provisioned their nestlings predominantly with natural food, primarily amphibians, particularly guttural toads (Amietophrynus gutturalis). African woolly-necked storks consistently reoccupied most nest sites across study years since initial discovery, suggesting that this population was at least stable. For the first time, I documented evidence of cooperative breeding where more than two adults provided care to a single nest. (Amietophrynus gutturalis). African woolly-necked storks consistently reoccupied most nest sites across study years since initial discovery, suggesting that this population was at least stable. For the first time, I documented evidence of cooperative breeding where more than two adults provided care to a single nest.