The impact of giraffe, rhino and elephant on the habitat of a black rhino sanctuary in Kenya

The habitat in an enclosed black rhino sanctuary, the Sweetwaters Game Reserve in Kenya, is being altered as populations of elephant, giraffee and black rhino increase. Height-specific browse impact data were recorded for 1075 trees of the dominant species, the whistling thorn, Acacia drepanolobium. Rhinos and elephants browsed 18% of these trees in 1 year, including 5% that were killed or removed. The remaining trees were subjected to high levels of giraffe browse and low rainfall and grew by only 7.5 cm in a year. A mathematical model has been constructed that predicts how the number of trees ha-1 will change with time under different browsing impacts. The model compares recruitment rate with removal rate and estimates that the number of trees ha-1 will fall by 2% per year under the current browsing impact of black rhino (0.27 per km2), elephant (1.1 per km2 ) and giraffe (1.9 per km2).I n 7 years, if the rhino and elephant populations continue to increase at the current rates, tree density will be falling by 5% per year and nearly one-third of the trees will have been removed. These conditions are unsustainable and will result in habitat change and may affect rhino breeding. Several ways of alleviating the problem are discussed.

Last Updated
January 27, 2021
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