Of Mice and (Sher)Man
Updated: Dec 30, 2021
Hi! I’m Theresa a Wildlife Conservation student from the UK who despite all the madness of the last 18 months was able to come to Ongava this May as part of my practical year at university. When hearing the words “wildlife research internship in Namibia” most people immediately think of studying large, charismatic animals like elephants, lions, maybe giraffes or any other of the large number of herbivores roaming the South African savannahs. My first project here however, focused on much smaller, but no less interesting or charismatic mammals. Namibia is home to 49 species of rats, mice, shrews, voles and gerbils, 26 of which have been confirmed on Ongava so far.
Using Sherman live traps in 6 different habitats across the ORC compound, from Mopane veld to the Anderson’s Camp kitchen yard, we measured species diversity and the influence of environmental factors on capture rates, such as grass height and distance to a building. In simple terms: we wanted to see what was running around, how much of it, where it was running around and why it would choose a certain section of the compound.
We found that “open grass” was the most diverse habitat of all with 7 of the 10 captured species occurring there. The most individuals were captured in areas with thick bushes (providing plenty of food through seeds), and belonged to Mastomys, or Multimammate species. Rare captures included a beautiful large Bushveld elephant shrew (Elephantulus intufi), two very small pigmy mice (Nannomys spp) and a Musk shrew (Crocidura spp) on the very last study day!
1. Elephant shrew; 2. Pouched mouse; 3.Fat mouse; 4.Multimammate mouse.
While this was only a basic inventory of the small mammal community structure at ORC, it shows the diversity and abundance you can find if you stoop down to look a little closer at what is running around in your “back yard”.
Author: Theresa Zett