Small mammals of a woodland-savannah ecosystem in Zimbabwe. I. Density and habitat occupancy patterns



Population and habitat occupancy patterns of small mammals in five woodland-savannah habitats (riverine grassland, miombo, mopane, talus, thicket) were studied at Sengwa Wildlife Research Area in Zimbabwe between July 1992 and July 1993. The study was initiated following a drought year and extended over a year of average rainfall. Fourteen species of small mammals were recorded during mark-and-recapture live-trapping. Populations of most species were low during the 1992 cool dry and hot dry seasons, began increasing during the hot wet season, and attained peak densities during the 1993 cool dry season. The greatest amplitudes of density fluctuations were exhibited by the bush squirrel (Paraxerus cepapi) and the multimammate mouse (Mastomys natalensis). The numbers of habitats occupied by a single species ranged from one to four, although the majority of captures for each species tended to occur in a single habitat. The habitats occupied by an individual species during the season of lowest density was always the same as the one in which it reached its highest density. Temporal variation in density was greatest in riverine grassland and least in talus. Overall low densities during this study may have resulted from a combination of drought and impacts of large mammals on small mammal habitats.