Patterns of distribution and current protection status of the Carnivora, Chiroptera and Insectivora in South Africa

  • C.M. Gelderblom
  • G.N. Bronner
  • A.T. Lombard
  • P.J. Taylor


Geographic patterns of species richness and endemism in three mammalian orders (Chiroptera, Insectivora and Carnivora) were studied in relation to the biomes and existing protected areas of greater South Africa (including Lesotho and Swaziland). Locality data for 21500 specimens representing 124 species were analysed with a geographical information system. Species richness of Chiroptera is high in the savanna biome, particularly in the north-east of the country, owing to the marginal intrusion of 14 tropical species. Endemism in Chiroptera is low, however, with only two endemic species in the fynbos and Karoo biomes. The Carnivora display less biome specificity and endemism than the Chiroptera. Whereas the north-eastern savannas have the highest species richness, the transition between the Nama-Karoo and grassland biomes is an important southern African centre of endemism for the Carnivora, particularly the smaller species. In addition to being an important centre for species richness in the Carnivora and Chiroptera, the Kruger National Park is also particularly important for Red Dala Book species in both orders. The Insectivora display both high species richness and endemism. Species richness of the Insectivora is greatest in the mesic south-east of the country, whereas endemism is most pronounced in the forest and grassland biomes. Differences in biome specificity and endemism between these orders reflect not only phylogenetic divergence, but also variation in body size, vagility and life-history strategies. Most of South Africa's endemics are small mammals and many of them are listed in the Red Data Book. Distributions, life-history strategies and trends in man-induced habitat degradation were used to re-evaluale the protection status of the 124 species. We conclude that at least 11 endemic species are not adequately protected by existing publicly owned protected areas and consequently identify several areas which need to be added to the existing protected area system.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-073X
print ISSN: 1562-7020