Do Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei) Populations Respond to Floods? Implications for Climate Change in Northern Botswana

Kelebogile B Mfundisi, Gaseitsiwe Masunga, Ketlhatlogile Mosepele, and Obusitswe A Keitsile


Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei), Sitatunga dispersal corridor, Climate change, Northern Botswana, Flood variability


Sitatunga is a rare semi-aquatic antelope occurring in wetlands and swampy environments in northern Botswana. Its habitat range in the Okavango Delta is reported to have decreased over the past 100-150 years. Given the projected global climate change, it is essential to first interrogate available data on sitatunga and inundation levels in an effort to avail baseline data to be used for forecasting the behavior of sitatunga populations and distribution over the next 20 years. Regression analyses were applied to wildlife population census from 1992-2012 and 8 decades river flow data. Visualization for Sitatunga observations was also displayed using proportional symbols in ArcGIS 10.2.2. Actual numbers of sitatunga observed declined from 51 in 1996 to about 13 animals in 2008. However, recovery of sitatunga population from about 13 in 2010 to 29 animals in 2011 occurred. The decline in sitatunga population is regarded as a lag response of this species to decrease in inundation level from 1985-1995. Furthermore, population increase from 2008-2011 followed an increase in inundation levels. Therefore, sitatunga population is vulnerable to potential climate change extreme events. Policy interventions and management strategies are needed to conserve it through establishment of sitatunga corridor in prime habitats of the Delta.

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