Movement response patterns of livestock to rainfall variability in the Richtersveld National Park

  • H H Hendricks South African National Parks, PO Box 110040, Hadison Park 8306, South Africa
  • B Clark Department of Rangeland Resources, Oregon State University, Strand Agriculture Hall 202, Corvallis, Oregon 97331 – 2218, United States of America
  • W J Bond Department of Botany, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch 7700, South Africa
  • J J Midgley Department of Botany, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch 7700, South Africa
  • P A Novellie South African National Parks, PO Box 787, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
Keywords: conservation, herd, ‘key resource' area, pastoralists, stock post

Abstract

We studied the seasonal and daily movement patterns of livestock (pastoralists) in the Richtersveld National Park to suggest management strategies that would support a balance between biodiversity conservation and livestock grazing. Livestock movement patterns indicated that forage is the motivation for winter movements and water is the motivation for summer. The movement followed a predictable direction from grazing areas in the wet season towards the Orange River riparian area with permanent water during periods of low rainfall. The latter can be considered as a ‘key resource' area to sustain animal numbers through critical periods of low rainfall. Overall, seasonal movement patterns were in transect of approximately 10km in distance. However, these patterns varied amongst the pastoralists which suggest diverse approaches to tracking resources. On average, a pastoralist moved his animals six times a year between stock posts in a network of grazing routes. The grazing area around a stock post was 2.49km comprising an area of ca. 1 950ha. Herds walked much more quickly in the morning (1.25km hr–1) than in the afternoon (0.82km hr–1) and thus covered more grazing ground per unit time. On the basis of the grazing area and travelling rate (particularly in the morning), all the 36 identified conservation-worthy sites in the National Park were threatened by livestock grazing. Effective management strategies may possibly include zoning, closing some stock posts and careful consideration for opening new roads.

African Journal of Range & Forage Science 2005, 22(2): 117–125
Published
2005-08-24
Section
Articles

eISSN: 1727-9380