Effects of Chemical Immobilization on Survival of African Buffalo in the Kruger National Park




ABSTRACT  Capturing, immobilizing, and fitting radiocollars are common practices in studies of large mammals, but success is based on the assumptions that captured animals are representative of the rest of the population and that the capture procedure has negligible effects. We estimated effects of chemical immobilization on mortality rates of African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. We used a Cox proportional hazards approach to test for differences in mortality among age, sex, and capture classes of repeatedly captured radiocollared buffalo. Capture variables did not improve model fit and the Cox regression did not indicate increased risk of death for captured individuals up to 90 days postcapture [exp (β) = 1.07]. Estimated confidence intervals, however, span from a halving to a doubling of the mortality rate (95% CI = 0.56–2.02). Therefore, capture did not influence survival of captured individuals using data on 875 captures over a 5-year period. Consequently, long-term research projects on African buffalo involving immobilization, such as associated with research on bovine tuberculosis, should result in minimal capture mortality, but monitoring of possible effects should continue.