These are the answers to the questions above from our Regional Ecologist, Angela Gaylard:
1. What is the reason for the springbok population not being able to increase to satisfactory levels?
Springbok are known to suffer from capture myopathy, and many did not survive the reintroduction in 2010. Because SANParks spent over R2 million reintroducing the springbok in 2010, we need to be sure that their numbers have stabilised before introducing cheetah. Even if lion are to catch a few springbok, that would not affect the population. However, sprinbok are one of the cheetah's favourite species and it would be irresponsible to introduce cheetah before we are sure that the springbok can sustain the expected rates of predation that cheetah will bring. Census results over the past three years has seen their numbers at between 1 600 and 1 900. We'd like to see this number stabilise at around 2 000 before considering bringing in cheetah.
2. Is it true that the high population of black-backed jackal is playing a major role?
High populations of jackal did not cause the initial decline, but once the population had reached a low level, springbok were unable to balance the birth rate with the mortality rate, including that from jackal.
3. Did park management (or SANParks management) play a role in unscientific culling of springbok a few years ago - leading to an "imbalance" in the male/female ratio? And because of this, SANParks had to buy in a considerable number of ewes to try and rectify the imbalance? This was told to me by Honorary Rangers.
Park mananagement in 2004 undertook an aggressive cull of springbok, based on the stocking rate model that was commonly used at the time. However, because the park was expanded shortly after this, the springbok dispersed, herd sizes became smaller, reducing their ability to defend themselves against predators (at that time only jackal and caracal) and mainly, their ability to breed was reduced. This reduced breeding opportunity caused the further decline of this population. However, there was never a skewed sex ratio. A scientific paper describing all of this is currently in review.
4. I am also curious to know why the buffalso was removed from the park when lion were released. Lions were released in Addo and Mountain Zebra without removing the buffalo. But when lion were released in Karoo, the buffalo first had to be removed.
There was only a very small population of buffalo in the park at the time that the lion were released, and a conscious decision was made not to try to maintain this population in Karoo anymore. Therefore, instead of leaving them there to potentially become prey for lions, they were removed to be sold to raise funds at the Kirkwood Wilflife Festival auction for the Park Development Fund.
5. The park had black wildebeest in the early years. They were also removed. Why?
Angela could not provide an answer to this question, as this happened before herr time in the organisation.
I trust this answers all the unanswered questions raised.
Regional Communications Manager