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THE INFLUENCE OF FIRE ON SMALL MAMMAL ABUNDANCE AT THE N’WASHITSHUMBE ENCLOSURE SITE, KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, SOUTH AFRICA

Keywords: Small mammal communities , fire , Mastomys , indicator species , animal damage control

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Abstract:

The relative densities of small mammals were studied in nine habitats in and outside the N’washitshumbe enclosure site, Kruger National Park, before and after burning the fire breaks that surround the enclosure. Trap success was exceptionally high, and the field work is expected to have happened during a Mastomys explosion. This species dominated the small mammal communities before and after the burn, and never disappeared from the burnt patches. Their numbers also did not crash after the burn, as have been reported in most other studies. Emigration from the burnt areas was observed, which may have had a significant impact on the numbers of rodents caught both inside the enclosure and in the more natural areas outside. Our study suggest that fire can be investigated as a tool to keep rodent densities down in areas where they are nuisance animals, especially when used in conjunction with models that forecast outbreaks of Mastomys. It also emphasizes the value of long term studies in informing on management strategies for animal damage control and biodiversity and ecosystem conservation.

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