The breeding dynamics of three species of rodents, Mastomys natalensis, Aethomys chrysophilus and Gerbilliscus vicina were investigated in a seasonal environment (wet versus dry) in Berega in the eastern parts of central Tanzania. Berega has a distinct unimodal rainfall pattern, with most rainfall from November to April/May. We hypothesized that breeding of rodents in central Tanzania would be confined to the wet season, when unlimited resources would be available for reproduction. We provide evidence of breeding discontinuity in the three species, showing that breeding was seasonally restricted to the wet season and early in the dry season. The observed discontinuity could largely be ascribed to variation in primary productivity between the wet and dry seasons. Reproductively active females were found in the population as early as November, a month into the rainy season, but when early rains occurred, some individuals were already breeding in October. Breeding was more intensive in the latter part of the wet season (March–May) and completely ceased during the dry season. For M. natalensis, survival was highest in the wet period and low in the dry season. The study provides knowledge on the breeding dynamics of rodents in central Tanzania, which can help farmers to take proactive rodent management decisions to prevent high rodent densities and reduce crop damage in the fields. Application of control measures by the community early in the season when populations of reproductive females is lowest will be most rewarding.
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Vol. 47 • No. 1