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Le Roex, N.; Dreyer, C.; Ferreira, S.M., 2019. Poaching creates ecological traps within an iconic protected area. Animal Conservation 23: 250-259 -

Location: Africa - Southern Africa - South Africa
Subject: Conservation
Species: African Rhino Species

Original text on this topic:
Ecological traps occur when areas preferentially selected by a species harbour an unknown increased mortality risk or reduced fitness for the individuals utilizing them. If animals continue to utilize these habitats, rapid declines may result that threaten the persistence of the population. Both black and white rhinoceroses are plagued by severe, targeted rhino poaching in South Africa that may have population and species‐level consequences in the long term. Poaching can rapidly increase mortality and may create habitats that function as ecological traps for protected populations. We used spatially explicit data of live rhino and poached rhino carcasses in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, to define high‐ and low‐risk states for both black and white rhino species. The proportion of area functioning as ecological trap was similar for both species (black: 37.73%, white: 35.51%), while the proportion of safe harbour was considerably lower for black rhino (black rhino: 32.01%, white rhino: 44.74%). Species‐specific risk areas were condensed into management categories that reflect the actions most likely to be effective for overall rhino protection in those areas. ‘Threat’ area, representing ecological traps for both species, comprised 32.48% of southern Kruger; this represents the highest priority for anti‐poaching interventions. A further 31.03% was identified as ‘haven’, representing safe harbours for both species, which may benefit most from continued rhino monitoring and surveillance. Using these categories, authorities can prioritize the distribution of limited resources and tailor anti‐poaching and biological management actions according to the needs of each area for the concurrent protection of both rhino species. This work illustrates how the conservation of multiple species or taxa within a system can be simultaneously prioritized in vast areas where resources and/or capacity may be insufficient to undertake species‐specific approaches.

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