Do black-backed jackals affect numbers of smaller carnivores and prey?
Sunday, 1st December 2013
Bagniewska J.M., Kamler J.F.,
African Journal of Ecology, 2013
The important role of mesocarnivores in ecosystems hasrecently received increased attention (Prughet al., 2009; Ritchie & Johnson, 2009; Roemer, Gompper & VanValkenburgh, 2009). Mesocarnivores can function in rolessimilar to apex predators (Roemer, Gompper & VanValkenburgh, 2009) and, consequently, can decreasepopulations of prey and smaller carnivores (Prughet al.,2009; Ritchie & Johnson, 2009). Mesocarnivores oftenincrease in numbers with reductions in numbers of apex predators, a phenomenon termed ‘mesopredator release’(Crooks & Soule, 1999; Prughet al., 2009).In Africa, research on the effects of mesocarnivores onprey species and smaller carnivores has been little studied.A dominant mesocarnivore in South Africa may be the black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas), as recent researchhas shown that jackals have lethal and sublethal effects on cape foxes (Vulpes chama) and bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis), which resulted in jackals suppressing numbers of cape foxes (Kamler, Stenkewitz & Macdonald, 2013). Similarly, numbers of black-backed jackals were inversely related to numbers of cape foxes, bat-eared foxes and small-spotted genets (Genetta genetta) across 22 sites in South Africa, associated with intensity of jackal control (Blaum, Tietjen & Rossmanith, 2009). However, research on the effects of black-backed jackals on the numbers of prey species and other smaller carnivores has not been studied.This study examined the relative abundance of black-backed jackals, smaller carnivores and small prey species across three sites in South Africa. The research was conducted in a region where apex predators had been extirpated, leaving jackals as the most dominant carnivore in the area. The goal was to determine whether abundance of jackals was inversely related to abundance of important prey species and smaller carnivores.