Status and determinants of large mammal occupancy in a Nigerian protected area

Akinsorotan, O.A., 2017. Status and determinants of large mammal occupancy in a Nigerian protected area. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Global declines in large mammals are well recognised and threaten the well-being of ecological and human communities. Most African large mammals are endemic to Africa with many listed as either endangered and/or vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to declines across their range owed in part to anthropogenic activities. In view of the effect of anthropogenic threats on large mammal populations, research was conducted in the Old Oyo National Park (OONP), the third largest national park in Nigeria, with the aim to investigate the status of large mammals and to examine the types and the extent of the threats associated with the large mammal populations in the park.

In this thesis, the species composition and the first baseline estimates of large mammals within the OONP are provided to inform future management. A multidisciplinary approach that combines camera trapping, distance sampling line transects and questionnaire surveys of local villagers and Rangers (stakeholders) were applied to derive data on the status of large mammals in the park. The camera trap survey covers 199 stations deployed for 2,786 trap-nights. The distance sampling comprised 45 line transects totalling 306Km across the park. A total of 800 villagers neighbouring the park and 100 Rangers in the protection unit of the park was surveyed between January 2015 and August 2015. Important is the estimate of illegal activities provided for the first time in the park, emphasizing the need for effective conservation planning using the data from the camera trap and the villagers questionnaire (Randomized Response Techniques (RRT) and direct questioning) and identify the predictors of the highest occurring illegal activities in the park.

Twenty four out of 28 historical occurring large mammal species were detected using field based surveys (cameras and transects). Apart from the top predators, elephant buffalo and oribi, the evidence of other wild species occurrence was provided across the field based surveys and the perception of the stakeholders (Villagers and Rangers). There are similarities in the perception of Villagers and Rangers to mammal declines and the low occupancy estimates of large mammals derived from the camera trapping survey. Over 70% of the stakeholders (Villagers and Rangers) perceived that most species have declined in the park. Similarly, a single species occupancy model applied to camera trap data indicated a low probability of occurrence for most species. An estimate of site occupancy as low as ψ 0.18 for rodents such as grasscutter (Thryonomys gregorianus) while higher estimates (ψ ≥ 0.79) were derived only for bush buck (Tragelaphus scriptus), civet (Civettictis civetta), giant rat (Cricetomys) and kob (Kobus kob). However, the occupancy estimates for illegal activities are higher than any of the wild animal species. Results from the field based surveys and perception of the stakeholders supported the conclusion that many species have declined and six are extirpated from the park. The field studies recorded four new species never previously detected in the Park.

All methods detected evidence of illegal anthropogenic activities in the park, principally in the form of poaching and illegal grazing. The highest occurring activity identified was the illegal hunting of wild animals with an estimate of site occupancy of ψ 0.97, followed by the illegal grazing (ψ = 0.68). The density of illegal grazing (85.3 cattle/Km2) was higher compared to any other wild species in the park.

The drivers of illegal hunting activity (the highest occurring activity) of the villagers show that occupation was the key factor that could influence illegal hunting activities. The individuals who engaged in seasonal employment such as crop farming, mixed IV farming and other types of occupation tended to engage in illegal hunting activity. Although, bushmeat consumption did not significantly predict illegal hunting activities, it was significantly associated with illegal hunting. Moreover, the bushmeat consumption is influenced by education and occupation. These two factors influenced consumption of bushmeat among the villagers, leading to a high level of illegal hunting and placing the large mammals in the park under threat.

This study provides the first empirical evidence of low occupancy of native large mammal species, high levels of illegal activity and low abilities to persecute and apprehend the offenders. The data serve as a baseline for the park authorities to monitor the species protected and the effectiveness of conservation efforts deployed. The findings imply that the threat of illegal hunting and domestic cattle grazing activities to large mammals should be highly considered when planning future conservation measures. This research has confirmed the ability of camera trapping methods to detect species of different traits and illegal activities, and the RRT to elucidate information on the rule breaking behaviour of local villagers which are important for the designing and implementation of management strategies.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Akinsorotan, O.A.
Date: August 2017
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the owner(s) of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 21 Nov 2017 11:54
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2021 10:27

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