06 February 2011

Kids These Days

Tygerberg Nature Reserve has a small herd of Bontebok. The females are watched over by a dominant male. He is easy to identify by his red earring and macho attitude. The family spends most of their time near a pond on the eastern slope. However there is also a young bachelor that hangs around at a seasonal pond on the western slope. Dad kicked him out a few years back and he has been living on his own since then. Dad drops by to check up on him every now and again. Now, this young fellow is making my live difficult...

The nose of a culprit: Bontebok (Bontebok - Damaliscus pygargus dorcas)

During December he repositioned the Cuddeback trail camera on the third day of a three week session. This meant this the camera was facing the wrong way for two and a half weeks of the three weeks I left it out. I like the spot and want to keep the camera there, but during January when I reset the camera at the same location the same troubled youth improved my carefully selected camera angle on the very next day after I set it out.

Homing in for the kill...

The camera isn't even really in his way. He must go deliberately out of his way to come mess around with it. For my third attempt I placed it even deeper into the vegetation, hoping to discourage him.

The rest of the Bontebok have much better manners. They seldom take any notice of the camera and when they do they don't completely rearrange the view. Usually I only notice the frame shifting slightly as they nudge it.

The small herd passing by without any trouble

Strictly speaking Bontebok aren't native to Tygerberg. Based on patchy historical records they never occurred as far west as Cape Town where suitable habitat is less extensive than a hundred or so kilometers west where they were/are common. Some records state that they never crossed the mountains that separate Cape Town from the Swellemdam area.

The bottom line is that we might never be sure what their distribution was like in the past. More importantly people sometimes forget that animal distribution and density changes all the time, even in healthy ecosystems. Also, as we humans change our surroundings we alter the habitat and thus the distribution of the animals.

The herd walks single file along the path

Looking at other species that have benefited from agriculture and the availability of water and grassy lawns, it might be plausible that were Bontebok free to roam today (and capable of surviving the roads, etc.) they might have spread "naturally" into the greater Cape Town area thanks to the "unnatural" influence of agriculture and urban development. Naturally the full story will be more complex and involve nutritional requirements, etc. The Bontebok at the reserve and at Table Mountain National Park (close by) seem to be doing well in the nutritionally richer Renosterveld areas and can do well when allowed to select optimal micro habitats such as the pond at Tygerberg. They prefer short green grass of high nutritional value (C4 grasses, etc.) and tend to maintain "feeding lawns".

(Note: These are just some thoughts that crossed my mind, and should not be taken without a pinch of salt - this is not a journal its a blog. The idea is to give you, the reader, something to think about and share my ideas, events and camera trap stories. I'm not an expert in these matters. If I had more time I'd be interested to research the matter more fully, but, alas, I don't.)

1 comment:

  1. I think he's using the camera lens to check that his white bits are immaculate. You never know when a lonely female may mosey on by...