SPECIAL SESSION: Lessons in conserving biodiversity from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (Wednesday 5 November)

Protected areas smaller than 100 km2 face specific challenges on how to restore, maintain or simulate ecological processes that once encompassed a much larger area. Well-documented case studies on the ecology and conservation management for these small- and medium-sized protected areas are needed to support future challenges to conserve them. Currently numerous scientists, researchers and former Ezemvelo staff are working on a book which outlines the fundamental ecological, conservation and management insights that have come out of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP). Proclaimed in 1895, HiP is the oldest protected wildlife area in Africa. Importantly, HiP’s remarkably long history of conservation management, currently spanning 119 years, has been relatively well recorded and is supplemented by extensive long-term documentation of ecological change through research, spanning at least 70 years. Chapters in this book cover aspects as varied as Long-term vegetation dynamics, Current plant and animal biodiversity patterns, The role of apex consumers in mediating savanna grassland heterogeneity, Interactions between fire and ecosystem processes, Rhino conservation strategies, Reassembly of the predator guild, Elephant management and impact, the Chromolaena odorata story and many others.

In this session, we will present highlights of certain of the draft chapters. Topics are varied and include results of long-term monitoring of trends in the park’s herbivore population, 10 year demographic data of the park’s wild dog population, current spatial ecology and potential management implications and the success of the alien plant removal program in the park. Fire is one of the factors that have contributed to the success of the alien plant removal program. The history of fire research in HiP and how it has contributed to the knowledge of the ecology and impacts of fire in other savanna systems will also be described. Additional influences on savanna structure and heterogeneity include megaherbivores (white rhino and elephant) as well as termites. A few presentations will outline what lessons have been learnt in HiP from research and management that have been undertaken around these animals.