What do Bontebok, Table Mountain and the West Coast National Parks have in common?
They are the only parks in SANParks where you will find bontebok, but all parks can now also boast genetically pure populations of the animal, after confirmation done through testing.
These positive results mean that the ‘real’ bontebok in the Cape region have been conserved successfully. As a result, SANParks are now able to assist if there are ever hybrids anywhere by re-introducing pure bontebok, contributing to the natural biodiversity of the Cape.
Testing started in 2012 to make sure that these animals did not have mixed genes. Bontebok and blesbok are from the same family and have been known to breed with one another. This can lead to hybridisation.
According to Carly Cowell, regional ecologist for SANParks at the Cape Research Centre, it was previously thought that the animals in the West Coast might have been in contact with blesbok in the past. However, after extensive testing, their suspicions were put to rest.
The test was done using the DNA protocol developed by the National Zoological Gardens. Every single bontebok caught for translocation and sales was tested.
“At present we have only tested animals that are being moved as we need to make sure we are not moving hybrid animals. Over time the majority of animals will be tested and confirmed pure in all our parks,” says Cowell. It would not be logistically or financially feasible to test the entire population at once.
Bontebok, West Coast and Table Mountain National Parks all have large populations while Agulhas currently only has a single animal. In Agulhas, management is looking at working with the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area adjacent to the park to drop farm fences and re-introduce bontebok in the future.
Currently, Agulhas has no fencing, which will be required on the outside borders of the park to prevent bontebok from going ‘walkabout’ and visiting the town.
READ MORE: The Blooms of Bontebok
Written by René de Klerk– SANParks Times Reporter
Pictures: René de Klerk
Content courtesy of SANParks Times: www.sanparkstimes.co.za