Comparing strategies for controlling an African pest rodent: an empirically based theoretical study

Authors

  • Nils Chr. Stenseth,

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Zoology, Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1050 Blindern, N-0316 Oslo, Norway;
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  • Herwig Leirs,

    1. Danish Pest Infestation Laboratory, Skovbrynet 14, DK-2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark;
    2. Evolutionary Biology Group, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp (RUCA), Groenenborgerlaan 171, B-2020 Antwerpen, Belgium; and
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  • Saskia Mercelis,

    1. Evolutionary Biology Group, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp (RUCA), Groenenborgerlaan 171, B-2020 Antwerpen, Belgium; and
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  • Patrick Mwanjabe

    1. Rodent Control Centre, Ministry of Agriculture, PO Box 3047, Morogoro, Tanzania
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    • Deceased July 2001.


Nils Chr. Stenseth, Division of Zoology, Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1050 Blindern, N-0316 Oslo, Norway (fax + 47 22854605; e-mail n.c.stenseth@bio.uio.no).

Summary

  • 1Small rodents in general and the multimammate rat Mastomys natalensis in particular cause major economic losses in Africa through damage to crops. Attempts to develop dynamic population models for this and other pest rodents are ongoing.
  • 2Demographic estimates from a capture–mark–recapture (CMR) study in Tanzania were used to parameterize a population model for this species. This model incorporated three functional age categories (juveniles, subadults and adults) of both sexes and used density-dependent and density-independent factors, the latter represented by rainfall.
  • 3The model was used to analyse the effect of rodent control on the population dynamics and resulting number of rats. Control measures affecting survival as well as reproduction were considered.
  • 4The model showed that control measures reducing survival will only have long-term effects on population size if they are also applied when rodent densities are low. Control measures applied only when rodent densities are high will not have persistent effects, even at high mortality rates.
  • 5The model demonstrated that control measures reducing reproduction are likely to prevent Mastomys outbreaks, but will keep densities low over a long period only when the contraceptive effect is strong (> 75% reduction).
  • 6Provided that CMR data are available, we recommend developing Leslie-type population models for rodent pests on the basis of CMR-estimated demographic schedules. Such models have great potential in rodent management and allow the evaluation of different strategies.
  • 7Besides improving the ecological basis of the population modelling, economic considerations need to be incorporated into decisions about rodent control. We suggest that appropriate population models will provide important input into such decision making.

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