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Human-brown hyaena relationships and the role of mountainous environments as refuges in a postcolonial landscape

WILLIAMS, KATHRYN,SUZANNE (2017) Human-brown hyaena relationships and the role of mountainous environments as refuges in a postcolonial landscape. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Humans and brown hyaenas (Hyaena brunnea) frequently interact within a shifting landscape of conflict and cohabitation, yet the social and biological dimensions of these relationships, particularly in montane environments, are rarely studied. This interdisciplinary thesis investigates how attitudes and perceptions towards brown hyaenas vary between different socio-economic groups within a postcolonial framework, and how these perceptions relate to brown hyaena occupancy, density, spatial ecology, and diet. This study, which is based in and around the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa, uses interviews, participant observation, camera traps, GPS telemetry, and scat analysis. Members of three socio-economic groups ascribe acceptable behavioural and geographic expectations to predators. Violation of these expectations by predators strip power from people and reduce acceptance levels towards them. Regaining power and mimicking concepts of colonial domination over land are key themes in human-predator relationships. Although the brown hyaena’s elusive nature and people’s strong abhorrence towards leopards (Panthera pardus) partially protects hyaenas from attracting attention as a problem animal, anthropogenic threats still abound. The most important factor determining brown hyaena occupancy is avoiding high human activity. Despite anthropogenic risks and due to their large home ranges (95.04 km2 – 169.79 km2) and dietary adaptability, brown hyaenas occupy 79% of the area surveyed. Brown hyaenas have a varied diet, which includes 48 different species. All signs suggest food acquisition through scavenging. This finding is corroborated by a high overlap with leopard diet. With lower human activity and plentiful scavenging opportunities, mountains provide a safe haven for brown hyaenas. A robust brown hyaena density between 2.56 – 3.63 per 100 km2 occurs in the Soutpansberg Mountains. Recommendations to promote coexistence with hyaenas include greater education about brown hyaena ecology and their ecosystem services, non-lethal conflict mitigation, and the inclusion of people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds in conservation.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Feb 2017 16:51

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