Factors associated with suni distribution in Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa: implications for management and conservation of a small antelope

17 June 2009

While small antelopes are becoming increasingly threatened, knowledge of their biology is often limited. Management recommendations are therefore frequently based on insufficient information. One declining small antelope is the suni in South Africa. A reduction in sand forest as well as habitat destruction by increased nyala populations are the suggested causes of suni declines. However, no recent study has quantified the factors that underlie suni distribution in southern Africa. Here we investigate whether the vegetation types, vegetation structure or occurrences of sympatric browsers affect suni distribution within Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa. We found that vegetation type and vegetation structure interacted in their effects on suni distribution, but there were no effects of sympatric browsers. Suni were found most often in sand forest, but were also present in closed woodland. Vegetation structure was, however, related to the local distribution of suni only in sand forest. This highlights that suni are not exclusively bound to sand forest, and also that vegetation structure within the sand forest may be as important as the vegetation type. We suggest that the current conservation assessment of this subspecies is based on insufficient data, and that a more detailed assessment of their distribution and the factors that determine the same is critically needed.