Global Change Research and Monitoring in the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountain System (South Africa-Lesotho)
Sonja Krüeger – Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
David Rowe-Rowe – Private Consultant
The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a large mountain protected area that conserves the catchments of five major rivers in South Africa. Many rivers outside protected areas have been altered or degraded following human population expansion, thus the 240,000 ha park has been considered a sanctuary for otters in the past. Throughout the world, several otter species have declined in number and range as a result of pollution, habitat destruction and over-hunting. We aim to determine whether the park continues to provide a refuge for these species in the face of global change. The two otter species that occur in the park are the clawless otter, Aonyx capensis, and spotted-necked otter, Lutra maculicollis. Surveys of signs of these two species, as well as that of water mongoose, Atilax paludinosus, were done in late winter/early spring along 5 km stretches of river in three sections of the park between 2014 and 2019; namely, Cobham, Lotheni and Kamberg. As otters are seldom seen, sign (faeces, latrines, tracks, dens, etc.) are used to establish presence and estimate numbers with the number of spraint sites (latrines) being the most reliable in estimating otter abundance. The results obtained were compared with those reported for the 1970s and 1990s. The results suggest that the park’s otter population appears stable, does not appear to have declined significantly in the past 30 – 50 years and thus continues to contribute significantly to otter conservation in the country.