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Impact of linear infrastructure on South Africa’s primate fauna: The need for mitigation

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journal contribution
posted on 10.06.2022, 09:43 authored by Birthe Linden, Frank P. Cuozzo, Michelle L. Sauther, Wendy Collinson Jonker


South Africa’s extensive linear infrastructure network (which includes roads and power lines) is severely impacting the country’s historically recognised five primate species: greater or thick-tailed bushbaby (Otolemur crassicaudatus), southern lesser bushbaby (Galago moholi), chacma baboon (Papio ursinus), vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) and samango monkey (Cercopithecus albogularis). We present South African mortality data from two different linear infrastructure types on a country wide scale, over a long-term sampling period. Using primate road mortality and power line electrocution data acquired from different data sources, we compare and discuss different mortality data collection methodologies, the resulting data quality and identify current limitations in understanding the direct impacts of linear infrastructure which have important implications for primate conservation planning. Between 1996-2021 a total of 483 primate mortalities were recorded on roads and power lines, the majority on the former. Vervet monkeys were most severely impacted by both linear infrastructure types whereas lesser bushbabies experienced the least number of mortalities. Both data sets showed numerous incidents where more than one individual was killed (roadkill: 4%, up to four killed in one incident; electrocutions: 13%, up to six killed in one incident). GPS coordinates were available for 61% of roadkill records and for 65% of electrocution records. Age or sex of carcasses were not available for electrocution records and only available for 11% of roadkill records. Although South Africa leads the African continent regarding roadkill and electrocution data collection, there are still areas in the collection protocol that can be improved and projects implementing mitigation measures (e.g. canopy bridges) to reduce primate roadkill are lacking. We argue that the mortality data presented here should form the basis for future mitigation implementation and recommend that linear infrastructure be more prominently recognised as a direct threat when developing national and international Red Lists.