Original Research

Movement patterns and home range size of tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus) in the Incomati River system, South Africa

Francois Roux, Gert Steyn, Clinton Hay, Ina Wagenaar
Koedoe | Vol 60, No 1 | a1397 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v60i1.1397 | © 2018 Francois Roux, Gert Steyn, Clinton Hay, Ina Wagenaar | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 April 2016 | Published: 27 June 2018

About the author(s)

Francois Roux, Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg; Scientific Services, Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, South Africa
Gert Steyn, Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Clinton Hay, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Namibia, Namibia
Ina Wagenaar, Department of Zoology, University of Johnnesburg, South Africa


Historical data suggested that the tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus) of the Incomati River migrates upstream and downstream as part of their life history. It has been suggested that this movement was a prerequisite for successful spawning in inundated floodplains in Mozambique. Recent advances in aquatic radio telemetry provided a reliable mechanism to monitor fish movement and increase knowledge of the ecology of tigerfish. From 04 January 2003 to 22 December 2003, 41 tigerfish in the Incomati River system were fitted with radio transmitters to record movement patterns and estimate home range size. On average, each fish was tracked 72 times, and the total number of fixes was 2971 over the study period, including 1322 summer fixes and 1649 winter fixes. The mean longest distance travelled by tigerfish was 730 m (range = 75 m to 3200 m). The home range size varied between individual fish, but on average fish stayed within a defined home range of 48 846 m2. Tigerfish showed high site fidelity to specific habitats within specific activity zones and movement occurred primarily within these defined zones. Differences in movement pattern, longest distance travelled and home range size could not be attributed to the sex or size of the fish. No large-scale movement patterns associated with specific life history activity were observed; thus, previous reports of large-scale downstream migrations and spawning migrations appear to be invalid. The presence of weirs in the study area impedes free fish movement as these weirs create migration obstructions.

Conservation implications: River regulation such as damming, water abstraction, obstructive barriers and channel modification may have a detrimental impact on the survival strategy of this species. Implementation of these results in a management policy will provide a reliable basis for species specific requirements such as upstream reservoir release management; minimum flow volumes required for downstream ecosystem maintenance and management and planning of structures obstructing natural flow.


Hydrocynus vittatus; South Africa; radio telemetry; movement patterns; home range size


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