In the course of a Conservation Across Boundaries workshop in 2011, small carnivores were identified as a group about which little is known, particularly in the Matobo Hills. Their importance in the ecosystem is acknowledged – as limiters of small mammal and bird populations, scavengers, potential disease vectors between domestic animals and wildlife, and a source of conflict with people through taking small stock and poultry.
Twenty-four species of carnivore (of the 32 species that occur in Zimbabwe) had been recorded in the Matobo Hills in historic times. As a result, the Matobo Small Carnivore Survey ran from February 2013 to October 2015 with the aims to:
- Produce an up-to-date inventory of carnivores present in the Matobo Hills, using two sources of information – camera traps and interviews with people living in the area;
- Identify which land uses are important for carnivore conservation in the Matobo Hills;
- Assess levels of conflict with carnivores, with the intention to assist with mitigation where necessary.
- Provide a baseline dataset for presence and relative abundance of carnivores in the northern section of the Matobo Hills.
Results indicated that all 24 of the species known to exist in the Matobo Hills historically are still present. Medium-sized carnivores, such as ratel or honey-badger (Mellivora capensis) and African civet (Civettictis civetta) were less common than expected in inhabited areas, possibly as a result of competition with dogs. However, smaller insectivorous and nocturnal species were detected in all land use types, and were detected more frequently in livestock areas.
Conflict, although present, was not severe on the whole. Most losses were of poultry, with slender mongoose (Herpestes sanguineus) being the major culprit. Spotted hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta) have moved back into the northern section of the Matobo Hills in recent years and have reportedly been taking livestock. Leopards (Panthera pardus) were also reported to take calves and small stock, but most losses were of animals that were not adequately protected at night.