This study was conducted on Tswalu Kalahari Reserve in the eastern Kalahari region of South Africa. The long-term sustainability of the valued African or Cape buffalo Syncerus caffer caffer was investigated in an area that falls outside their permanent historical distribution. The habitat utilisation of the buffalo population and their range use patterns were investigated. Seasonal differences were apparent in habitat utilisation and were guided by nutritional needs and climatic variables. Range use patterns revealed an increase in range size during the cold, dry season. The buffalo density on Tswalu was the lowest recorded in the literature to date with 0.15 buffalo/km². The animals showed seasonal changes in their feeding preferences with occasional browsing. During the cold, dry season the population was under severe nutritional stress. Population growth during the study period was 11.8% but this was within the norm expected for a free-living buffalo population. Annual recruitment for the study period was 33%, with half of the female population with calves at heel. However, the population is ageing with 54.2% of the population in the adult age class. Optimising the sex ratio and age structure could improve the productivity. Together with this, the nutritional needs of the buffalo should be met by supplementation, especially during periods of poor rainfall, to assist in optimal production and survival. Population viability analysis showed that the population is vulnerable over the medium term.
Dissertation (MSc (Wildlife Management))--University of Pretoria, 2007.