Distribution and protection of endemic or threatened rodents, lagomorphs and macrosceledids in South Africa
Distribution patterns and protection status of endemic or threatened Lagomorpha, Macroscelidea, and Rodentia were analysed using museum point locality data and a geographic information system (GIS). The study area comprised the greater South Africa (including Lesotho and Swaziland). Species richness of the target species is highest in the south-western parts of the country, and hotspots of endemism coincide with those of species richness. However, Red Data Book species hotspots are confined to the north-eastern parts of the country. One species richness hotspol in the Succulent Karoo contains no existing reserves, whereas all Red Data Book species hotspots are protected. In general, all target species are well protected within existing reserves, but those found in the Succulent and Nama-Karoo, especially the Namaqua dune molerat (Bathyergus janetta), the riverine rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis), Brants whistling rat (Parotomys brantsii), and the pygmy rock mouse (Petromyscus collinus), are threatened by a paucity of reserves in these biomes. A heuristic reserve selection algorithm was used to identify a more representative reserve system for the protection of all target species. Ten representative reserves were identified, six of which already contain existing reserves. An analysis of biome specificity of all species revealed that Myomyscus verreauxii is endemic to the fynbos, Bathyergus janetta to the Succulent Karoo, Zelotomys woosnami to the arid savanna, and Steatomys parvus to the savanna woodlands. No species are endemic to the Nama-Karoo or grasslands, although several species do show strong preferences for these habitats. It is recommended that hotspots, representative reserves, and species that are currently not protected, be awarded more protection, and that existing reserves which coincide with hotspots and representative reserves be managed for their mammal fauna. It is also recommended that the Red Data Book status of tour species, and six subspecies, should be changed.