The present study was conducted on Ezemvelo Nature Reserve in the highveld grasslands of South Africa. The evidence for ecological separation between the black and blue wildebeest was investigated in an area with suboptimal habitat for both types of wildebeest. Habitat selection and separation of the black and blue wildebeest population were investigated at three main scales. A combination of logistic regression analysis, discriminant analysis and hypothesis testing techniques were used to determine whether habitat separation occurred between the black and blue wildebeest at the various scales. Seasonal, social group and weather influences on the habitat selection of both types of wildebeest were also investigated. Black and blue wildebeest showed resource partitioning in terms of habitat at the macro and mesoscales but not at the microscale. The preference for open areas by the black wildebeest and its more specialised territoriality were found to be the main driving factors contributing to the habitat separation of the two types of wildebeest. The population of black wildebeest was found to be decreasing while the blue wildebeest population was found to be increasing in the study area during the study period. Spatial overlap between the black and blue wildebeest was found to be low. Little evidence of interference interspecific competition between the black and blue wildebeest was found. It was, however, concluded that exploitative competition between the two types of wildebeest would be found in areas with low habitat heterogeneity. Ecological separation between the black and blue wildebeest was found to be incomplete. However, the coexistence of the black and blue wildebeest was deemed possible provided habitat heterogeneity in terms of the factors found to be important for habitat separation was high and population sizes were strictly monitored and actively controlled. Finally, a number of additional management recommendations for the black and blue wildebeest at Ezemvelo Nature Reserve and for other reserves confining both types of wildebeest together based on the results of this study were made.
Dissertation (MSc (Wildlife Management))--University of Pretoria, 2007.