Mammal road-type associations in Kruger National Park, South Africa: Common mammals do not avoid tar roads more than dirt roads

The majority of Africa's parks and conservation areas have a vast road network, facilitating motorized vehicle game viewing. These roads have an influence that is both road type- and species-specific, on the surrounding ecosystem. Due to their higher traffic volumes, we hypothesized that tar roads and their immediate surrounds within the Kruger National Park, South Africa, are avoided to a greater extent by medium-to-large mammals than comparable dirt roads in the park. We systematically recorded the presence of medium-to-large mammal species from our vehicle, recording data at 401 tar and 369 dirt road stops in the Kruger National Park. In addition to
species presence, we also estimated the proximity of animals to the road, as well as herd sizes. Our results indicate an equal likelihood of viewing the commonly recorded medium-to-large mammal species from both road types. The likelihood of observing larger herd sizes was also similar between tar and dirt roads for the three most commonly observed species, African elephant (Loxodonta africana), impala (Aepyceros melampus), and plains zebra (Equus quagga), and the likelihood of viewing impala and zebra close to the road also did not differ between tar and dirt roads. However, elephant was observed more often close to tar roads, compared to dirt roads. We interpreted this as the result of potentially increased woody cover associated with more water runoff in close proximity to tar roads compared with dirt roads. Our results not only have ecological significance, supporting the notion that many of the park's species are habituated to human infrastructure, but also management implications, informing park officials about the influence of road traffic and road type on wildlife distributions.

Publish DateJanuary 18, 2022
Last UpdatedJanuary 18, 2022
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