Dynamics of a protected black rhino (Diceros bicornis) population: Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa


All correspondence to: H. Hrabar: Tel: +27 12 4204609; Fax: +27 12 4202534; E-mail: hhrabar@zoology.up.ac.za


Achieving maximum productivity in remnant populations of black rhinoceros is crucial to the persistence of this species. It was, therefore, investigated whether the black rhino population of Pilanesberg National Park had become regulated by resource limitation 22 years after introduction in 1979. Inter-calving intervals (which are not restricted to yearly time increments, due to asynchronous reproduction) decreased with an increase in rainfall, while the percentage of male calves born increased with increasing rainfall. The percentage of reproductive cows achieving maternal success increased with increasing density until 0.085 rhinos/km2, after which it decreased. This positive relationship at low densities is largely due to changes in the female age structure and the adult female/male ratio. The age at first calving tended to increase with increasing density, while mortality was not related to rainfall or density. It is concluded that the Pilanesberg black rhino population is showing the first signs of density dependence. It is proposed that black rhino conservators should monitor the percentage of cows achieving maternal success to detect early indications of density dependent resource limitation and use this as a criteria for decisions regarding metapopulation management.