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Herkenrath, Tim, 2019. How does white rhino respond to fires during dry season?. Second cycle, A2E. Umeå: SLU, Dept. of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies



The white rhino is a megaherbivore grazer that favours the short and nutrient-rich grass on grazing lawns. Since regrowth on lawns requires a certain amount of rainfall, the usage of this food resource is limited to the wet season. During the dry season, white rhinos are able to feed on senescent tall grass. In the case of fire occurrences, the post-fire regrowth being high in nutrients represents an additional potential food resource. Many African grazers like wildebeests and zebras are known to be attracted by burnt areas. However, the response of white rhinos to burns during the dry season has not been tested intensively yet. Here, I show that white rhinos response positively towards burnt areas a few weeks after a fire. By analysing data from seven years, I found that rhino abundance in the same area increased significantly after a fire and neither grazing lawn cover nor precipitation were able to explain differences in rhino abundance. This preference of white rhinos for burnt grassland contradicts the general described pattern, that large herbivores are not attracted by burnt grassland but rather use low quality food resources. While fire had an impact on the short-term distribution, I did not find any evidence that fire frequency influences long-term habitat selection of white rhinos. My results demonstrate, that the white rhino is an exception in terms of resource partitioning based on differences in body size. This study can be the basis for further studies that investigate patterns of white rhino’s response to fire in more detail. For example, the spatial distance up to which rhinos are attracted by burns could be tested. A better knowledge about rhino movement as driven by burns and spatiotemporally-specific rhino hotspots would contribute to a more effective protection of white rhinos against poaching.

Main title:How does white rhino respond to fires during dry season?
Authors:Herkenrath, Tim
Supervisor:Cromsigt, Joris and le Roux, Liza
Examiner:Löfroth, Therese
Series:Examensarbete / SLU, Institutionen för vilt, fisk och miljö
Volume/Sequential designation:2019:6
Year of Publication:2019
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:None
Supervising department:(S) > Dept. of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies
Keywords:white rhino, post-fire regrowth, habitat selection, African grazers, megaherbivore
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Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Animal ecology
Deposited On:14 May 2019 13:18
Metadata Last Modified:15 May 2019 01:00

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