Original Research

The reproductive success of black rhinoceroses in the Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Zoliswa N. Nhleko, Dan M. Parker, Dave J. Druce
Koedoe | Vol 59, No 1 | a1386 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v59i1.1386 | © 2017 Zoliswa N. Nhleko, Dan M. Parker, Dave J. Druce | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 February 2016 | Published: 15 November 2017

About the author(s)

Zoliswa N. Nhleko, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, South Africa
Dan M. Parker, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University; School of Biology and Environmental Sciences, University of Mpumalanga, South Africa
Dave J. Druce, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, KwaZulu-Natal; School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


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Abstract

Black rhinoceroses (Diceros bicornis) are endangered and the southern-central sub-species (Diceros bicornis minor) is considered critically endangered. We assessed the reproductive lifehistories of black rhinoceroses in Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park (HiP), KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, to determine whether this historically important donor sub-population was meeting regional reproductive targets. Detailed life-history information for known individuals (n = 79–120) was used to investigate reproductive parameters between 1998 and 2013. Mean age at sexual maturity was 12 years, which exceeded a target period of 7 years and 5 months. The mean inter-calving interval was 3 years and 8 months – 8 months longer than the recommended 3 years. The poor population performance of the HiP black rhinoceroses could be a result of poor habitat quality, poor animal condition, females losing their first calves, predation of calves or a negative social effect of annual live-harvesting of the population. However, we believe that the estimated ecological carrying capacity of black rhinoceroses at HiP (a figure used to ascertain whether the population can be harvested at all) may be incorrect, leading to the poor reproductive performance. We recommend that the accuracy of the ecological carrying capacity estimate be assessed as a matter of urgency and that a moratorium be placed on the live-harvesting of individuals until the estimate has been refined.

Conservation implications: Our results provide key data which can be used to refine black rhinoceros breeding targets in South Africa and the region more broadly


Keywords

Southern-central black rhinoceros; reproductive success; demography; age at sexual maturity; inter-calving interval; mortality

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