Camera traps reveal a large population of brown hyaena on a fenced reserve in southern Zimbabwe
Gush WG., Wijers MC., Comley J., Sousa LL., O'Donnell H., Svensson LM., Macdonald DW., Loveridge AJ.
Investigations into the demographics of cryptic carnivores such as the near-threatened brown hyaena Parahyaena brunnea have been improved by recent developments in camera trap technology and survey methods. Here, we assess the population density and abundance of this species on the Bubye Valley Conservancy (BVC) in south-west Zimbabwe, a largely unsurveyed portion of the brown hyaena's range. We estimated brown hyaena density from a camera trap survey across two sections of the BVC (namely Main Conservancy and Ripple Creek) using a spatially explicit capture-recapture method from individually identifiable images. This resulted in population density estimates of 14.72 ± 0.99 per 100 km2 for the Main Conservancy and 6.39 ± 1.74 for the Ripple Creek. While similar results have been found in recent studies of small, fenced reserves in Southern Africa, to our knowledge, these high-density findings are the first for a large (>1000 km2) fenced reserve. We estimated the brown hyaena population on the BVC to be in excess of 400 individuals. This considerable population size is likely due to the well-protected nature of the reserve and the scavenging opportunities provided by the sympatric large carnivores on the BVC, suggesting that this is a key locale for the species' conservation.