Adaptive management in game ranch management
Game ranch management and the management of nature reserves are the two facets of wildlife management. The intensity of management in nature reserves and game ranches depends upon the size of the area. The smaller the game ranch, the greater the intensity of wildlife management required.
Wildlife management begins as soon as an area is demarcated as a unit on a map. No development, especially that of a larger nature, should take place before the limitations and potential of the environment have been thoroughly determined. The primary point of departure for wildlife management is an inventory of all the natural resources, including the presence and numbers of game in a given area (Bothma 2002).
There are basically two types of wildlife management: active management and passive management (Bothma 2002).
Active management involves the manipulation of game and their habitat, while passive management involves the prevention of any human influence. Only active management should be applied on a game ranch which has been fenced, and which is a relatively small area. No natural area should be managed without an ecological management
plan in place. The aim of an ecological management plan for a game ranch is to give scientifically based advice regarding the management options and recommendations. This will allow a sustainable use of the ranch without deterioration of the environment.
Key aspects of game and their habitat should be monitored so that trends will be noted in time, and management adjustments can be made accordingly. This is known as an active adaptive management plan. Any person beginning to use adaptive management will go through the following seven phases (Stuart-Hill 1989):
- Firstly he will make an inventory of the natural resources on the ranch.
- He will then decide on his objectives (the type of animals, the performance of the animals and the veld condition required).
- For every homogenous unit present on the ranch he will assess at least one survey site.
- By using the results of his surveys, he will then determine the type of animals and the stocking rates for the ranch.
- After stocking the ranch, he will then manage the veld according to the best of his knowledge. The goal would be to achieve those objectives already defined in phase 2, without allowing the veld to deteriorate. Throughout this phase records should be kept of all management being applied, and all miscellaneous occurrences and environmental conditions experienced.
- Periodically (every 2 years) every homogenous unit present on the ranch should be reassessed and compared with what it was previously. If the veld condition has deteriorated, or the animal / economic performance is lower than expected, he will be able to go back to his management and environmental records and interpret what has gone wrong.
- The management plan can then be adapted or expert help can be called in.
- Finally, he would return to phase 5 and repeat the whole process.
The adaptive management process is illustrated schematically in the flow diagram in Figure 1. If the process continues long enough, and records are kept of everything, it is evident that it will lead to a management model that is specially adapted for the ranch in question. This will be a very useful tool that can be passed on from generation to generation, and it will definitely add value to the ranch.
Some of our projects included the following:
- An Ecological Assessment of portions 29 & 30 of LEEUDRAAI 211 JR in Limpopo, South Africa, with management recommendations (2010)
- Veld monitoring report of part of the farm Klipspruit, Limpopo, South Africa. (2009)
- An Ecological Assessment of parts 17 and R/G 4 of the farm ROODEKRANS 314 JP, North West, South Africa, with management recommendations (2007)
- Habitat suitability study for the white rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum on a part of the farm KLIPSPRUIT, Limpopo, South Africa, with management recommendations (2007)
- An Ecological Assessment of the farm BROODBOOM, north of the Klein Olifantsriver, with management recommendations. (2006)
- An Ecological Assessment of part of the farm KLIPSPRUIT, Limpopo, South Africa, with management recommendations (2005)
- An Ecological Assessment of the Radley Landgoed (Edms) Bpk., Malelane, South Africa, with management recommendations. (2004)
- An ecological assessment of the farm Gruispan, Radium, South Africa. (2003)