30 March 2010

Kirstenbosch Summary

I have been wanting to do a basic summary of my camera trapping at Kirstenbosch for a while now, but never seemed to get around to it... Well, I eventually managed to throw something together. It might not be a very thorough report, but then again it didn't take too much time to it slap together either :)

The chart-like-thing below shows the number of sightings for each animal I photographed. As I'm typing this I realise that this might not be the best piece of camera-trap-reporting ever created, but I hope it is at least somewhat interesting, he he.

Information about my camera trapping at Kirstenbosch. Many of the day sightings where in fact just after sunrise (Vlei rat, Porcupine and Large-spotted Genet in particular).
Ten mammal species and five bird species where photographed. For much of the time I only had one camera and it wasn't always in the field.

It was fun to camera trap at Kirstenbosch and I will definitely set up cameras there again in the future. It is right at my office and thus very easy for me to get to. There are a lot of Porcupines and the areas near Oak trees have many Squirrels. I also manage to find some surprising mammal species. When I got the Bushnell Trophy Cam it enabled me to photograph the smaller mammals: Verreaux's Mouse, Reddish-Grey Musk Shrew, Vlei Rat, Striped Mouse and one or two other unidentified species of mouse and shrew. I would like to go back for more small mammal photos some time, especially the shrew, but Tygerberg is keeping me busy.

A Google Earth screen-shot of my camera locations at Kirstenbosch. Each point actually fans out when you click on it in Google Earth to show all the sightings at that location, but the screen-shot only indicates the first sighting in the list for each location. (Please forgive the Afrikaans names - the main idea of the image is to show the locations and not so much the species names...)

I hoped to find some Grysbok at Kirstenbosch, but I didn't find any signs of them in the areas where my cameras were. I heard rumors about Cape Fox in the area, but I also didn't find any evidence of them (but I didn't search extremely hard). I would also have liked to find a Striped Polecat and some "aquatic" mammals, but again no luck... All of these "missing" mammals are reason enough to go back someday and try and track them down.

(Those of you wondering about what happened to the data I collected after wrapping things up at Kirstenbosch: I copy all of the images, locations, sighting information, etc. onto a CD and gave it to the estate manager at Kirstenbosch.)

I just noticed that the terminology used in the image with the chart might be confusing when compared to that used by other camera trappers (such as Camera Trap Codger). For instance: In the image, the "First Visit" is the date of my first camera set and the "Last Visit" is the date of the last camera set at Kirstenbosch. Also note that one sighting can have many photographs of an animal(s), for example: If a Porcupine spent about 3 minutes in front of the camera, resulting in about 6 images of the same individual during one "event", then I consider it to be a single sighting (with 6 images). Hope that makes sense...


  1. I like your graph, Henry, and see that your porcupine is my wood rat -- the most brazen and bumptious of visitors.

    I am curious to know how many carnivore species live in the reserve. (Is striped polecat and Cape fox the only other species? How about meerkats and yellow mongooses -- is Kirstenbosch in their range?)

    Have you thought about doing a species accumulation curve?

  2. As far as I was told prior to my camera trapping escapade at Kirstenbosch they didn’t really have an up to date list of confirmed species on their property. They have a list on the SANBI website, but the content of the list is somewhere between outrageous and just silly!

    The only carnivores I could confirm at Kirstenbosch were Caracal, Small Grey Mongoose, Large-spotted Genet and Domestic Cat. I believe most of them are dependant on the mouse, rat and molerat species found on the property, with some species mixing in invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians and the odd bird or two.

    There are rumors about Cape Foxes being present, but I believe the habitat is not really to their liking. I think they prefer more open terrain. I might be wrong. They might be present on the southern border or from time to time pass through the area, but I’ll be surprised if they are in the northern section where most of my camera trapping happened.

    Another possible carnivore is the Small-spotted Genet, but again I think its habitat requirements are more similar to the Cape Fox. Also people have an incredible ability of misidentifying a Large-spotted Genet as a Small-spotted Genet. I have only seen Large-spotted Genets at Kirstenbosch (usually in the areas with some form of trees-like cover), but then again I didn’t put the same amount of effort into all habitats. I also didn’t find any Large Grey Mongoose.

    I mentioned the Striped Polecat because it is a habitat generalist and can be found almost anywhere in South Africa in low densities, so I wouldn’t have been to surprise (although very happy) if one of them darted past the camera.

    I also expected to find a Marsh Mongoose or Large Grey Mongoose. I might still get them if I focus a bit more on the streams and ponds. The Large Grey Mongoose is associated with riparian habitats and I’m not sure how appealing the seasonal rocky mountain streams might be for them. There is also talk about Cape Clawless otter occurring in the area in the past and they are still found close by in the Liesbeek River, but I haven’t seen any evidence of otters currently on the property, maybe for the same reasons as the Large Grey Mongoose... But then again these species might be found with more extensive camera trapping, one never knows :)

    I also didn’t find any evidence of antelope (with the Grysbok being the most likely to occur, but not found). It was said that there used to be a Grysbok in the gardens themselves, but it is a bit too risky for me to put my cameras there.

    Meercat don’t occur at Kirstenbosch. They prefer more open and dryer terrain, and can be found in more inland areas and along the west coast.

    The Yellow Mongoose also prefers more open and dry terrain, and can also be found a little more inland or along the west coast. The interesting thing about the Yellow Mongoose is that my wife saw one at Century City (which is a huge shopping mall in the middle of Cape Town). They have an extremely small “reserve” there (I guess forced onto them as part of the EIA process) and maybe one was set free there or maybe it got there on its own, who knows…

    I didn’t camera trap higher up on the steep slopes or the top of the mountain, focusing rather on the lower slopes (for various reasons).

    (...Had to cut reply here because of the character limit on replies...)

  3. (...continued...)
    Some general info:
    Kirstenbosch gets a lot of rain from the clouds that blow in from the sea over the mountain and thus the vegetation is a lot denser than other parts of the cape. There are also fewer fires that sweep through the area and more trees grow on the slopes and especially in the kloofs. There is disagreement about how frequently the area should be burned, but regardless the habitat will always be moister and more tree-like than other areas, which is unique because the fynbos biome has a distinct lack of proper trees (hence the name: fyn = fine and bos = bush).

    Kirstenbosch is one of the botanical gardens owned by SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute). It isn’t enclosed by a fence on the side that opens up to the rest of Table Mountain National Park, but the border next to the urban areas of Newlands, Bishops Court and Constantia have a fence next to the road.

    The Table Mountain National Park itself also doesn’t have any real fences around it, except for the Cape of Good Hope section. It is a very different kind of park than compared to some of our other national parks. For me the saddest part is that almost the entire mountain is surrounded by Cape Town city and most of the lower slopes and flats are lost under development. The animals still found outside the Cape of Good Hope section are mostly the survivors that could cling to existence on the higher slopes and survive the centuries of steady urban growth. But that again is a different story…

    Wow, this has been quite a long reply … Almost a post in its own right :) Hope it clears things up a little more.
    Lastly, yes I think I should try and do a species accumulation graph... I’ll see if I can get the time (and the willpower) to get around to it over the Easter Holidays.

    Some links:

  4. Thanks a lot for that reply -- it took some time I am sure, esp if you type as slowly as I do.

    One of the issues I am interested in is the time it takes to camera trap all the carnivores living within an area being surveyed. In 7 areas I have surveyed here for as long as a year I have so far failed to capture all of the known species of carnivores on the cams.

    So the question is how long did it take to photograph all the carnivores you know to exist there. (If you're data jockey the graphs are fun to do, but it isn't the only way to get the answer).

    Good work. You know your area, and I know it a little better now too.

  5. Good bar chart. Adding day/night coloration is a nice touch. I am surprised you caught only 1 domestic cat and no dogs.