Despite Angola’s high biodiversity, the political unrest during the period 1975-2002 took a heavy toll on its wildlife, which suffered from widespread poaching and bushmeat hunting. Although little is currently known about the status and trend of most Angolan wildlife populations, iconic and threatened species such as the Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, and African Wild Dog, Lycaon pictus, are presumed to have suffered drastic declines and range contractions. However, the Angolan government has recently shown signs of political will to improve knowledge of the country’s biodiversity, including for the large carnivore species.
In a paper published in the journal Orynx on 12 February 2020, Pedro Monteroso of the Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos at the Universidade do Porto, Filipe Rocha, also of the Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, and of the Departamento de Biologia at the Universidade do Porto, Stefan van Wyk of the Cuatir Private Reserve, Telmo António and Milcíades Chicomo of the Instituto Superior de Ciências da Educação da Huíla, Selma Kosmas, again of the Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos at the Universidade do Porto, and of the Department of Wildlife Management and Ecotourism at the University of Namibia, Fernanda Lages, also of the Instituto Superior de Ciências da Educação da Huíla, Ezequiel Fabiano, also of the Department of Wildlife Management and Ecotourism at the University of Namibia, and Raquel Godhino, once again of the Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, and of the Departamento de Biologia at the Universidade do Porto, and of the Department of Zoology at the University of Johannesburg, present the results of a study which used camera traps to assess the status of these two species in two areas of southern Angola.
Globally, the African Wild Dog and Cheetah are categorized as Endangered and Vulnerable, respectively, on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species because of population declines, range loss and the fragmentation of populations. Although historical records indicate that both species formerly occurred widely in Angola, the majority of the country is currently classified as unknown range for both species. Updated knowledge about the distribution, abundance and population dynamics of both species, and any threats, is required for conservation planning.
Group of African Wild Dogs, Lycaon pictus, detected through direct observation, in June 2018. Milcíades Chicomo/Orynx.
Under the scope of ongoing institutional research and advanced training programmes, Monterosa et al. surveyed around 360 km² in Bicuar National Park, which lies in the transition between the Angolan Miombo Woodlands and Zambezian Baikiaea Woodlands ecoregions in the province of Huíla, and abou 300 km² in Cuatir Private Reserve in western Cuando Cubango province, along the Cuatir river, one of the main tributaries of the Cubango (Okavango) river on its Angolan side, also in the Zambezian Baikiaea Woodlands ecoregion.
Monterosa et al. deployed camera-trapping stations uniformly spaced at about 2 km in the core of each study area). Fifty-one camera traps were deployed in Bicuar National Park during July 2017–June 2018 and 43 traps in Cuatir Private Reserve during June–December 2018. Cameras were inspected every 2 months. Additional records were obtained in Cuatir Private Reserve from unstructured surveys with six camera traps during August 2013–December 2018. Additional recent records of the Cheetah and African Wild Dog in Angola were obtained by reviewing surveys reports and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility database. Monterosa et al. considered as independent any camera-trapping detections within 30 minutes, unless animals were unambiguously identified.
Locations of camera traps in Bicuar National Park, Angola), with 2015 land cover at 100 m resolution. Monterosa et al. (2020).
In Bicuar National Park Monterosa et al. recorded 16 independent detections of two African Wild Dog groups over a total of 14 232 trapping-days. They were able to assign 15 individuals to one group and three to the other. African Wild Dogs were detected consistently throughout the sampling period at a mean detected group size of 3.6 individuals. No Cheetahs were detected.
Locations of camera traps in Cuatir Private Reserve, Angola, with 2015 land cover at 100 m resolution. Monterosa et al. (2020).
In Cuatir Private Reserve Monterosa et al. obtained 13 independent detections of at least two Cheetah individuals and no detections of African Wild Dogs over a total of 5173 trapping-days of systematic surveying. Unstructured camera trapping provided records of an individual cheetah in July 2014, and a coalition of two male Cheetahs in October 2017. They were not able to match any of these Cheetahs with those of the 2018 survey. A group with at least four African Wild Dog individuals was detected in July, August and October 2014, and another of at least five individuals in October 2016.
Monterosa et al.'s findings build on recent surveys that indicate the occurrence of cheetahs and African Wild Dogs in Luengue-Luiana and Mavinga national parks, and in the Cuanavale and Cuito river catchments. African wild dogs have also been observed in Bicuar National Park, and in Mupa National Park, and Mucusso Reserve, and Cheetahs in and around Iona and Cameia national parks. Monterosa et al. found no records of Cheetahs or African Wild Dogs for 2008-2018 in Angola in the Global Biodiveristy Information Facility.
Wild Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, detected through unstructured camera trapping in Cuatir Private Reserve, in July 2014. Stefan van Wyk/Orynx.
Monterosa et al.'s findings indicate that the African Wild Dog’s range as currently delimited should be extended about 750 km further west-north-west from the Angolan/Namibian border, beyond the Cunene river and including Bicuar National Park. As the species has been regularly detected in the Park since at least 2015, this complies with International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Canid Specialist Group criteria as an area of African Wild Dog residency, with groups of over 10 individuals and breeding confirmed through multiple observations of groups with pups, made by park rangers in 2016. It is likely that other large extents of good quality habitat in Angola also harbour resident populations, and further monitoring to assess presence and residency status are required.
Distribution status of the the African Wild Dog, Lycaon pictus, in Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana and recent (2008-2018) records in Angola. Study sites: BNP, Bicuar National Park; CPR, Cuatir Private Reserve. Monterosa et al. (2020).
Cheetahs have been observed regularly in the lower Angolan range of the Cubango River, and also in south-eastern, south-western and central-eastern Angola in the provinces of Namibe, Cuando Cubango and Moxico. These reports suggest that International Union for the Conservation of Nature's classification of the south-western Angolan range for the Cheetah should be changed from Possibly Extant to Extant.
Distribution status of the Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, in Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, and of recent (2008-2018) records in Angola. Monterosa et al. (2020).
Monterosa et al.'s findings will support the new political willingnessin Angola to invest in wildlife conservation strategies and will help to unlock conservation funding for the Cheetah, African Wild Dog and other Carnivores. Given that the majority of the distribution of these two species potentially falls outside protected areas where they are more susceptible to anthropogenic threats, Monterosa et al. emphasize the urgency of identifying remnant populations in Angola and quantifying any threats to the species.
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