(PRWEB UK) 3 February 2012
Yorkshire Wildlife Park has launched a ground-breaking study that could change the future of conservation grazing in the UK – using exotic African antelopes on their wetlands, announces TM Media PR.
Staff at the award winning wildlife attraction became concerned when their spectacular wetland started drying out due to the volume of one dominating species of vegetation - soft rush.
After consultation with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, YWP decided to host a project to study whether exotic species could do as good a job grazing as traditional cattle.
Now instead of cattle exotic African wetland antelopes -Kafue Lechwe - are grazing the wetland next to the River Torne – with their every move being monitored by scientists.
Announcing details of the project on World Wetlands Day YWP Director Cheryl Williams explained: "This area would traditionally be grazed with cattle in the UK. However, cattle are not always the best option for grazing sensitive areas as, due to their weight and size.
“They can cause soil compaction – preventing water penetration - and can also cause a higher incidence of nest damage to ground nesting birds than animals with smaller hooves.
“On the flip-side, cattle’s additional weight means that they break up tall vegetation better at a higher level as they make their way through it, meaning that more light can get through to the ground level where other plants are trying to establish.
“The ideal compromise therefore appeared to be to use stock which were lighter and more delicate than cattle, but would also be heavy enough to break up the vegetation structure to allow more diversity in species composition and physical structure.
“We have had an existing population of Kafue Lechwe (Kobus leche kafuensis) that was large enough to be able to be split and put some onto the study site. Conservation is at the heart of all we do and to be part of such a study is extremely exciting.”
The Wetland Grazing Project is being supervised by the Centre for Environmental and Marine Science at the University of Hull.
The study will look to find the comparative benefits of the 2 species in a wide range of areas, including improvement in vegetation species richness, structure and diversity.
Research will also assess animal behavior, comparison of the use of space within the study enclosures, foraging behavior, dietary analysis and invertebrate diversity.
Any conclusions drawn from the study will enable YWP, which has a 260 acre site in Branton, to look at how to graze the wetlands sustainably.
This in turn will also allow conservation organisations to think about different ways to graze other UK habitats with exotic species.
Working in conjunction with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, YWP has been establishing ways in which to manage their native wetland habitats as part of the Humberhead Levels Living Landscape Project.
This programme aims to create an internationally renowned, unique wetland landscape, whilst supporting thriving communities and wildlife in the Humberhead Levels.
One of its key aims is to work with businesses, landowners, communities and other organisations to achieve sustainable land management practices.
Kafue lechwe, originally from Zambia, are known as semi-aquatic antelopes. When frightened, they completely submerge leaving only their nostrils showing.
Their long, rough greasy coat is reddish-brown with white undersides. The males have lyre-shaped horns which can be 90 cms long. The Kafue lechwe has distinctive black markings on its face and front legs.
Females produce one baby after 7-8 months gestation & give milk for 3-4 months. It gives a snorting-cough as an alert signal and during mating displays.
7-8 months gestation & give milk for 3-4 months
It gives a snorting-cough as an alert signal and during mating displays.
For further information and photos please contact 020 7 437 0474 / mark(at)tm-media.co.uk / 07710 740468