Field of work
My dissertation project dealed with the ecology and the status of population of the puku antelope (Kobus vardonii Livingstone, 1857) in Zambia. Pukus have a shoulder height of 80 to 90 cm, the males being taller than females and carrying horns. The coat is golden-yellow and lightening towards the underpart.
The puku was investigated as a member of the ecosystem of the savannah. Aspects on the autecology and synecology of the pukus were studied.
As a basal step the populations of the puku were investigated. How about the population densities and the population size in the study regions? How do the pukus distribute over the areas? How do the populations look like? Therefore data collection on line transects was performed. The data served for estimations on population densities (via the software Distance) and information on distribution, preferences in habitat and the condition and structure of the population were gained.
What about the food plants of the pukus? Grasses are characterized by a species specific epidermal structure that resists the passage through the digestive system of herbivores. Remains of the epidermis can be found in the faeces of antelopes. A reference collection of the grasses from the study regions, the first for Zambia, was established and allowed a determination.
How about the competition between pukus and other antelope species? Other antelopes sightings were noted as well during line transect sampling. Faecal samples of selected bovid species were collected and investigated. Thus a possible competition between bovid species for space and food was evaluated.
Which predator species are occurring in the study areas and how much it the amount of puku in their diet? To investigate the presence of predators camera traps were mounted and specific areas were searched for signs. Faecal samples collected were analysed for their content.
The pukus in Zambia are poorly studied. Most data about their ecology and especially about their territoriality come from a small area of South Luangwa Nationalpark.
Zambia is the centre of the puku’s distribution although nowadays pukus are restricted to protected areas. My main study region was the Kasanka Nationalpark situated in the northern part of the Central Province next to the Congolese border. Data were collected year-round. Another study region was the Kafue Nationalpark and surrounding Game-Management-Areas. Data from both study regions were investigated for regional differences in the puku’s ecology.
The results shall contribute to the conservation of this antelope species, characteristic for Zambia. Because the project covers various aspects of the whole ecosystem, I hope to contribute to the protection of the unique Zambian wildlife.