The extent and impacts of ungulate translocations: South Africa in a global context

23 November 2010

Despite the apparent risks of the introduction of non-indigenous ungulates to biodiversity, relatively little is known globally about the pathways of introduction, propagule pressure and realized impacts of ungulate introductions. These issues were examined here by investigating ungulate introductions to South Africa within a global context. Across countries globally, introduced ungulate richness is not related to indigenous ungulate richness, and several countries are clear outliers. South Africa is second only to the USA in the number of ungulate species introduced to date. Zoos have traded more ungulate species and individuals to non-zoo recipients than to other zoos, highlighting the tensions that exist between in situ and ex situ conservation goals. Introductions to, and extralimital introductions within South Africa have increased through time, with propagule pressure being highest in areas with high human population density. The long distances ungulates have been translocated raise concerns for genetic homogenization. Translocations of indigenous ungulate species extralimitally have significantly altered range sizes, typically to a greater extent than is expected from range shifts associated with global climate change. Although ungulate introductions and translocations are likely to have impacts on biodiversity, evidence for such impacts in South Africa, and elsewhere, is limited. Whilst arguments may be made for a precautionary approach to ungulate introductions, an evidence-based one is much more likely to deliver efficient and convincing conservation decision-making.