Poaching decimating Oribi populations in SA

2008-01-24 00:00

Oribi numbers in the country are declining, due to illegal poaching.

These are the findings of the National Oribi Survey, which was conducted last year by the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Oribi Working Group (EWT-OWG).

The initial results of the survey that were released this week indicated that a combined total of 993 Oribi (Ourebia ourebi ) were counted in 2007.

Yolan Friedmann, the CEO for the EWT, said that the response to the census was very positive.

"It was the first year that a conscious effort was made to count Oribi throughout their range, which includes the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and North West Provinces of South Africa."

The majority of the returns were from KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, the two provinces with the largest Oribi populations, said Friedmann.

"An alarming statistic is that half of the population occurs in groups of five or less animals. Often these small populations are isolated from one another in small islands of grassland. About a quarter of the returns indicates that the Oribi populations on those properties are stable, while another quarter indicates that Oribi numbers are decreasing." The remaining half do not indicate whether there has been any change.

Friedmann said that a comparison with figures from previous years unfortunately indicates that Oribi numbers in South Africa are still decreasing. "According to the land-owners who participated in the survey, the primary reason for the continued decrease in Oribi numbers is illegal hunting (poaching)."

Although the EWT-OWG co-ordinates a national Oribi count every two years, the Group is interested in receiving the results from land-owners that conduct annual counts of their Oribi, irrespective of when in the year the counts take place.

The national, bi-annual count of Oribi serves a number of functions. It allows the EWT-OWG to determine trends in the population that can assist in future conservation management decisions regarding this endangered species. This is achieved over time when returns for the same areas or properties are received and the numbers can be compared.

It also allows the EWT-OWG to determine the current primary threats to Oribi and implement appropriate conservation measures, and involves land-owners in the conservation of Oribi and in the conservation activities of the EWT-OWG.

The Oribi is specialised to inhabiting only African temperate grasslands. In South Africa, its numbers have declined sharply in recent years, primarily due to habitat destruction, illegal hunting (poaching) and inappropriate management. It currently exists in only a few formally protected areas, with the bulk of the population occurring on privately owned land. South Africa’s Red Data Book of Mammals (2004) classifies the Oribi as Endangered.

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