Demographic response of the Gambian Gerbil to seasonal changes in Savannah fallow fields

Safianu Rabiu 1 , 2  and Robert K. Rose 2
  • 1 Department of Biological Sciences, Old Dominion University
  • 2 Department of Biological Sciences, Bayero University Kano, 700241, Kano, Nigeria

Abstract

The Savannah gerbil, Gerbilliscus gambianus (Muridae: Gerbillinae) is important to the ecological relations of the dry grassland ecosystem of West Africa, as well as, being a zoonotic agent of human diseases and potential crop pest. We examined the impact of seasonal changes on the population dynamics of G. gambianus in northern Nigeria, by completing population estimates using capture–mark–recapture (CMR) and indirect population density indices (PDI) methods. The latter included fecal pellet counts and limited spotlightening. During 1990–1992 we collected both CMR and PDI data, and established their relationship by regression, thus calibrating the PDI values to CMR estimator. We also completed a separate, PDI only, study during 2015–2017, and estimated monthly densities indirectly by toning the PDI values to population sizes in the CMR estimator. The lowest declines (<20 gerbils ha−1) were in mid rains (July–August), and highest increases (>90 gerbils ha−1) were after the rains (October–January). Seasonal effects on densities were significant during 1990–1992 but not during 2015–2017. There were improved survival rates for both adults (0.95) and young (0.83), adult capture probability (0.56), and mean monthly recruitment of young (23) after the rains. There was no significant change in the overall population dynamic pattern of G. gambianus over a 25-year period. Because G. gambianus did not maintain colonies inside farmlands cultivated by rain or irrigation, and its tendency for large population drops in mid-rains, we are in doubt of its potential as crop pest in northern Nigeria.

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