Effective Population Size of Two Heavily Hunted Carnivores in the Karoo, South Africa

molzoolab University of Johannesburg


Large carnivores have always received much attention from conservationists due to their charisma and threatened status throughout the world. They are vulnerable to human disturbances because of their low population density, large area requirements and conflict with local communities. Large scale persecutions and local extinctions have occurred for most carnivores, mainly as the result of a long history of competition with human populations over space and food resources. The two heaviest hunted carnivores in South Africa are the black backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) and caracal (Caracal caracal). These two medium-sized carnivores are considered a pest in many parts of the country, due to which they can be hunted without limit.

Research Aim

Preservation of genetic biodiversity is set as one of the key aims in conservation biology. The aim of this study is to reveal whether the genetic diversity of the black-backed jackal and caracal has been influenced by the high hunting pressure, in the Karoo specifically. The study will mainly focus on the effective population size (Ne) of both carnivores.


Samples have been collected of both species over two generations, with a minimum sample size of 40 per generation and a total sample size of >100 per species. We will use 10 to 15 microsatellite markers for genetic analysis. NeEstimator v2 is a software that produces estimates of contemporary effective population size over two or more generations.


The research will be done independently, with supervision from PhD Laura Tensen and Professor Bettine van Vuuren. The internship will mainly take place at the Molecular Zoology Lab, part of the Department of Zoology, at the University of Johannesburg. The Molecular Zoology Lab consists of six offices, two main labs, a gel room and a PCR room. Two professors, three post docs, three PhD’s, five MSc and several BSc students are currently working in the lab, representing seven nationalities. The airplane ticket from Amsterdam to Johannesburg will be paid by the University of Johannesburg, and housing will be organized by Laura Tensen (for which rent has to be covered by the student). Field work is optional and will be covered by the University. The internship will be from January to May 2016, with flexibility dates.

Contact information

Dr. Dick Roelofs
Room: H-147
E-mail: dick.roelofs@vu.nl
Phone: +31 20 59887078