Provide artificial waterholes in dry season
Overall effectiveness category Likely to be beneficial
Number of studies: 3
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How is the evidence assessed?
Background information and definitions
In response to reduced availability of natural water sources for mammals, artificial water holes may be constructed. These can help to enhance survival during drought periods. However, there are also concerns about negative effects on mammals from artificial waterholes, such as there being increased numbers of some common water-dependent species at expense of rarer herbivores (Smuts 1978), or that artificial waterholes maintain high populations that are then vulnerable to starvation (Walker at al. 1987).
Smuts G.L. (1978) Interrelations between predators, prey and their environment. Bioscience, 28, 316–320.
Walker B.H., Emslie R.H., Owen-Smith R.N., Scholes R.J. (1987) To cull or not to cull: lessons from a southern African drought. Journal of Applied Ecology, 24, 381–401.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A study in 1987–1993 in a mostly dry savanna protected area in the eastern Lowveld region, South Africa (Smit et al. 2007) found that, during the dry season, areas around artificial waterholes were used by higher numbers of animals of eight out of 13 mammalian herbivore species than was the wider landscape. Higher abundances near waterholes than across the wider landscape were recorded for eland Taurotragus oryx, Burchell's zebra Equus burchelli, buffalo Syncerus caffer, blue wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus, sable Hippotragus niger, white rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum, tsessebe Damaliscus lunatus, and roan Hippotragus equinus (data expressed as model results). However, the abundance of waterbuck Kobus elipsiprimnus, kudu Tragelaphus strepsiceros, giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis, impala Aepyceros melampus and elephant Loxondonta africana was lower near waterholes than across the wider landscape (data expressed as model results). In the 1930–1980s, more than 300 boreholes were drilled, 50 earth dams were constructed and seasonal and perennial rivers were dammed across Kruger National Park (>20,000 km2). Mammals were counted during daytime by four observers, from a fixed-wing aircraft, during the dry season (May–August), in 1987–1993. Counts were made within 800-m wide transects, from 65–70 m high, flying at 95–100 knots.Study and other actions tested
A site comparison study in 2006 in a national park comprising woodland and savanna in Tanzania (Epaphras et al. 2008) found that artificial waterholes were used by a similar number of large mammal species as was a natural waterhole. Results were not tested for statistical significance. The number of species recorded at artificial waterholes (4–5 species) was similar to the number at the natural waterhole (three). Average numbers of impala Aepyceros melampus were considerably higher at one artificial waterhole (64 impalas) than at the natural waterhole (9). Giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis numbers were also higher at one artificial waterhole (26 giraffes) than at the natural waterhole (8). Two artificial waterholes and one natural waterhole were monitored. Large mammal numbers were estimated, in November 2006, by counting footprints and droppings in three 100-m2 quadrats at each waterhole and by direct observation, for one day, from a vehicle.Study and other actions tested
Referenced paperEpaphras A.M., Gereta E., Lejora I.A., Ole M.G.E., Ng’umbi G., Kiwango Y., Mwangomo E., Semanini F., Vitalis L., Balozi J. & Mtahiko M.G.G. (2008) Wildlife water utilization and importance of artificial waterholes during dry season at Ruaha National Park, Tanzania. Wetlands Ecology and Management, 16, 183-188.
A study in 2010–2012 in desert in a national park in Jordan (Attum et al. 2017) found that artificial waterholes were used by striped hyenas Hyaena hyaena. In the first year of monitoring, an estimated nine hyenas visited the two artificial waterholes with 10 hyenas visiting in the second year. Within a 320-km2 national park, one artificial waterhole was created in 2003 and one in 2010. They were approximately 1 m in diameter and located 460 m apart. Hyenas were monitored using one camera trap at each water hole through August and September of 2010 and 2012. The park also contained approximately 60 permanent and semi-permanent natural waterholes and springs.Study and other actions tested
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This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:Terrestrial Mammal Conservation
Terrestrial Mammal Conservation - Published 2020
Terrestrial Mammal Conservation