Research Article

Small mammal species diversity and distribution in the Selous ecosystem, Tanzania

Published in: African Zoology
Volume 57, issue 1, 2022 , pages: 20–31
DOI: 10.1080/15627020.2022.2034040
Author(s): Aenea Saanya, United Republic of Tanzania, Apia Massawe, United Republic of Tanzania, Rhodes Makundi, United Republic of Tanzania

Abstract

Threats to ecosystems are ever increasing from different drivers mostly being linked to anthropogenic activities. This has brought about various measures to restore/protect the wildlife in these areas. Considering the background of most protected areas in East Africa, small mammals have been given least attention, compared with large mammals, although they play a fundamental role in maintaining ecosystem health. It is therefore necessary to understand how small mammals are distributed in any given ecosystem as a baseline information to enable holistic and informed management. We investigated the diversity and distribution of small mammals in the Selous ecosystem, Tanzania. Two methods were used; Capture Mark Recapture (CMR) using grids of 70 m x 70 m and random placement of havahart traps in the selected habitats. Between July 2018 and June 2020, a total of 887 individuals belonging to 20 species were captured in 28 224 trap nights with 3% trap success. The small mammal species captured consisted of rodents (91.8%), Macroscelidea (3.9%), Carnivores (2.4%) Eulipotyphla (1.6%), and Primates (0.3%). Acomys ngurni (36%) and Aethomys chrysophilus (17%) were the most captured species, whereas Atilax paludinosus (0.23%), Helogale pervula (0.23%), Rattus rattus (0.23%) and Galerella sanguinea (0.11%) were the least contributing species. Acomys ngurui and Lemniscomys rosalia were the most distributed species occurring in all four habitats, whereas Cricetomys ansorgei, Rattus rattus, Mungos mungo and Genetta genetta had low occurrence. Grammomys selousi is reported for the first time in the northern part of the Rufiji River. Acomys ngurni abundance differed significantly (χ2 = 12, df = 3, p = 0.007) between the four habitats being higher in the seasonal riverine forest and across seasons (χ2 = 6, df = 2, p = 0.049), with more individuals occurring in the wet season. The Sable Forest habitat had the highest species diversity (H' = 2.065) and the lowest diversity (H' = 1.506) was recorded in perennial riverine forest/thickets. The highest species diversity (H' = 1.65) was recorded in the dry season and the lowest diversity in the wet season (H' = 1.445). Most small mammals were associated with seasonal riverine forest than other habitats. Overall, the results from this study show that, the park is rich in small mammal fauna. Therefore, considerations in updating the General Management Plan (GMP) and other plans to include the small mammals in the park management actions is recommended.

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