Conservation management in action: Saving the Cape mountain zebra

2016-10-03 13:35 - Ra-ees Moerat
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Cape Town -  The success story of the Cape Mountain Zebra, recently de-registered at the CITES CoP17 from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species has received yet another boost with the a Cape Nature population management project.

The first Cape mountain zebra capture took place from the 19 to the 22 of September, in and around De Hoop Nature reserve in the Overberg region as part of the project aimed at improving the resilience and growth of the Western Cape species.

In a landmark negotiation with conservation stewardship site, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, CapeNature ensured that 28 Cape mountain zebras (12 males, 16 females) were captured and translocated from the De Hoop Nature Reserve and surrounding farms to Sanbona game reserve close to Montagu. 

The capture teams from Shamwari Game Reserve, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve as well as CapeNature scientific and management staff all contributed to the operation while scientist from the National Zoological Gardens spicemens, blood samples, measurements and photographs of each of the zebras to ensure that sketches could be produced for additional research on the species. 

Darted Cape mountain zebra (Source: CapeNature)

Paul Vorster, General Manager of Sanbona, says, “It is an honour for Sanbona to be part of the conservation efforts of the Cape mountain zebra and to be able to actively manage the safe capture operation with all animals arriving safe and sound at our reserve”. 

“These capture operations are not always easy and we are proud to have a 100% success rate with this specific translocation” he added.

CapeNature’s De Hoop Nature Reserve allowed the team to capture Cape Mountain Zebras that may have escaped onto their property. The zebras were located and then tracked from the air, then darted and transported to the translocation truck where the scientists collected samples and specimens from each individual zebra.

After the data has been collected, the zebras would then be loaded onto the truck for the journey to their new home at Sanbona. 

 Sample collection (Source: CapeNature)

Coral Birss, Mammal Ecologist of CapeNature says, “The scientific data that were collected during the capture and resulting analyses and research will enable effective scientific decision support towards the successful implementation of the metapopulation strategy which is envisaged in the recently drafted Biodiversity Management Plan for the Cape mountain zebra in South Africa. Our collaboration with Sanbona as well as the Conservation Research team at the National Zoological Gardens has set the foundation for critical monitoring of this population to be effected.”

CapeNature CEO, Dr Razeena Omar says, “The conservation of this iconic species has been a high priority for CapeNature and is one of the conservation success stories in the Western Cape. In the previous century the Cape mountain zebra faced near extinction and natural populations survived in only three conservation areas: Gamkaberg and Kammanassie Nature Reserves, both managed by CapeNature and Mountain Zebra National Park. Today the species is in a much better position with population numbers having grown significantly and will continue to strive thanks to interventions such as this translocation.”

Team photo (Source: CapeNature)

The Cape Mountain Zebra is no longer threatened with extinction, having recently been assessed as Least Concern in accordance with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The recovery of the Cape Mountain Zebra numbers is globally recognised as a conservation success story, where modern technology and the education of South Africa's people had contributed to the species' survival. 

SEE: Cape Mountain Zebra downlisted at CITES CoP17

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