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South African Journal of Wildlife Research



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We conducted a survey to identify present patterns and future priorities for mammal research in southern Africa (countries including and southwards of Angola, Zambia and Tanzania). Two sets of peer-reviewed journals were scanned for papers on southern African mammal research over the period 1988-1998: one set comprised five journals published in South Africa; the other comprised 10 journals published abroad. For the same period we reviewed titles of M.Sc. and Ph.D. dissertations completed in zoology departments of South African universities. A questionaire was administered by e-mail to. 126 researchers active in mammal research in southern Africa, concurrently with a separate questionnaire to 97 individuals and organizations representing the stakeholders in southern Africa's indigenous mammalian resources. Our literature search found that small mammals (<5 kg), which include 83% of southern Africa's mammal species, have been the subject of 40% of research publications on the region's indigenous mammals over the past decade. Researcher respondents identified conservation biology as a priority research discipline, although post graduate training in South Africa, as indicated by dissertation titles, does not reflect this. Stakeholder respondents indicated a lack of either awareness of, or confidence in, the ability of scientific research to improve sustainable benefits to people from the region's indigenous mammalian resources. We conclude that descriptive, taxonomically defined research should be directed at souther Africa's poorly described small terrestrial mammals, as well as its marine mammals. Fundamental research on the better-described terrestrial species, which include the charismatic mega-fauna, will be best served by a thematic, question-driven approach that ignores taxonomic boundaries. The priority for applied research is the integration of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, with the communication gap between researchers and stakeholder communities requiring particular attention.