Climate change may be behind Cape fox moving north in Botswana: Scientists

2016-10-07 22:25


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Gaborone - The diminutive Cape fox is nosing its way further north in Botswana - and climate change may be the reason, a new study shows.

Researchers in northern Botswana have used camera traps to prove that these shy nocturnal animals have extended their range into the Ngamiland District, an area where they were never previously documented.

Lindsey Rich, who was involved in the just-published research as part of her doctoral studies told News24 that this is the furthest north Cape foxes - also known as silver foxes because of their distinctive grey backs - have been found in Botswana.

"The range extension may be attributed to climate change, which has resulted in increasingly open and arid environments that are more suitable for the Cape fox," Rich said.

Semi-arid Botswana has been plagued by drought in recent years, and this year's drought has also been declared a national disaster.

Rich said the team was "surprised" by the findings of the study, which was conducted between February and July last year.

More than 220 camera traps were used -  and sometimes they attracted the persistent attentions of other more-frequently photographed species, Rich said.

"Elephants would often knock the cameras, spotted hyenas would chew on the cameras and try to rip them off the trees, and baboons would poke and prod" at them, she said. 

The upside, of course, was that when not tampered with, the cameras could film for 24 hours a day. Since the Cape fox is nocturnal, this proved a huge advantage.

The Cape fox is widespread in South Africa, including in areas with more rain and thicker vegetation than is normally thought to be "preferred" Cape fox habitat. It is also found in Namibia and Angola.

It's not currently considered to be a threatened species though the IUCN says that "problem animal control activities" have resulted in a decrease in population in some areas.

Solitary animals, Cape foxes mate for life.

Read more on:    angola  |  botswana  |  south africa  |  southern africa

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