|dc.description.abstract||This study was motivated by the Natal Parks Board which has been receiving
a growing number of complaints from farmers concerning reedbuck grazing of
commercial crops. The reedbuck is an important conservation species, which
has recently disappeared from 80 % of its previous range in South Africa,
and has become extinct in the Cape Province and the Orange Free State. The
study was intended to look objectively at the crop damage problem and
conservation status of reedbuck on private land in Natal, and make
recommendations for management.
A postal questionnaire was used in assessing the species' present
distribution in Natal, and an intensive study was undertaken in the
Underberg district of the Natal highlands. The study area comprised
approximately 10 500 ha of semi-intensive agricultural land, divided into
23 farm properties, and was considered representative of farmland
throughout the highland and midland regions of the province, where
nutritious food in the form of irrigated pasture grasses is available
throughout the year.
Four animal census techniques were critically evaluated, and reedbuck
numbers assessed throughout the study area. The study area was divided
into no-cull, low-cull and high-cull blocks, and population trend examined
over two years in each. Population stability was demonstrated in all
blocks. Post mortem examination of nearly 200 reedbuck showed that the
animals were in excellent physiological condition throughout the year, and
the population appeared to be at, or close to its genetic potential as
regards productivity. A 20 % annual 'surplus' of animals appeared to be
produced. Eighty four reedbock were marked, and resightings of some of
these far from their place of capture confirmed that emigration of young
animals is an important population regulatory process.
A multiple regression analysis of reedbuck-habitat relations, based on
observed reedbuck numbers on the 23 farm properties, demonstrated that
population size appeared to be llinited by the availability of cover. An
examination of social organisation and behaviour led to the belief that
cover is limiting because it is a resource that is monopolised by dominant
territorial males at the time when females are attracted to it to give
birth. Within two months these females, nursing their newborn lambs,
become oestrous again, and are mated by the territorial males.
Because of the relatively low densities at which stability is achieved,
crop damage only becomes a problem in exceptional circumstances.
A best estimate of
0,2 t of pasture grass lost per reedbuck per winter was made.||en