The impact of fire on habitat use by the short nosed sengi (elephantulus brachrthynchus) in Northwest Province, South Africa

Richard W. Yarnell, Daniel J. Metcalfe, Nigel Dunstone, Niall Burnside, Dawn Scott

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Several studies have investigated the numerical response of small mammal populations to fire, however, few have investigated behavioural responses to the subsequent habitat modification. In this study we investigated the impact of fire on home range, habitat use and activity patterns of the short snouted sengi (elephantulus brachyrhynchus) by radio tracking individuals before and after a fire event. All animals survived the passage of fire in termite mound refugia. Before the fire grassland was used more predominantly than thickets and E.brachyrhynchus habitat utilisation shifted to thickets after fire had removed the grass cover. Thicket was shown to be an important refuge both pre- and post-fire, however the proportion of thicket within the home range was greater post-fire. We conclude that the fire induced habitat modification resulted in a restriction of E.brachyrhynchus movements to patches of unburned vegetation. These behavioural responses are most likely caused by an increase in predation pressure from reduction in cover rather than a lack of food. This study highlights the importance of considering the landscape mosaic in fire management and allowing sufficient island patches to remain post-fire ensures the persistence of the small mammal fauna.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-52
Number of pages8
JournalAfrican Zoology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • fire
  • habitat modification
  • habitat-use
  • radio-trafficking
  • sengi


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