The Northern Tuli Predator Project was started in 2007 and focuses mainly on the study of lions and leopards. Additional large carnivore species have also since been selected for further studies, as part of the greater carnivore assemblage in the reserve. These include spotted hyaenas and cheetah.
Populations of large carnivores are becoming increasingly threatened throughout Africa, especially when not afforded protection by large conservation areas (Woodroffe and Ginsberg, 1998). Humans frequently limit carnivore numbers living outside protected areas and legal and illegal hunting, road accidents, and snaring cause most deaths that occur outside of reserve borders (Woodroffe and Ginsberg, 1998). Furthermore, humans also form the preponderance of mortality amongst large carnivores, especially wide ranging species such as wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) and cheetah (Acinonyx jabatus) (Woodroffe and Ginsberg, 1999). Lions (Panthera leo) are also exposed to population disturbances inside protected areas due to harvesting (Whitman and Packer, 1997; Loveridge et al., 2007). Lions are highly social animals that live in fission–fusion groups (Van Orsdol, 1984; Packer et al., 1990; Whitman and Packer, 1997), and are thus susceptible to population disturbances from humans. Infanticide also plays an important role in the level of disturbances within a lion population (Packer, 2001).
Here we investigate the spatial-and temporal movements of lions from the Northern Tuli Game Reserve (Notugre), Botswana. Lions moved across international boundaries and through local farmland regardless of fences and land use type, but spent most of their time inside their home ranges located within protected areas (90% KDE ( = 86.3% ± 10.2) and 50% KDE ( = 42.8% ± 10.5)). When lions moved out of these protected areas the probability of them being killed was high. In at least two instances this included males responding to the placement of baits set to lure lions out. Edge effects had a severe impact on the Notugre lion population, with 82% of adult mortality found outside the borders of the reserve. There were various reasons why males left their normal home ranges and went on excursions that took them outside protected areas, one of the reasons being females. Each radio-collared lion had a unique set of characteristics that characterized the size and location of their home ranges, resulting in wide variability in size and shape. Average 90% KDE for males were 69.0 km² (range: 3.0 to 151.6, n = 4) for females it was 41 km² (range 2.2 – 78.9, n = 2). There was much less variability in the 50% KDE of both males (mean = 13.2 km², range 0.7 to 34.6) and females (mean = 8 km², range 0.3 – 15.7). The presence of human activities, in the form of cattle-posts, agricultural lands and villages also appeared to influence home range selection with lions tending to avoid these areas. With increasing human populations and the destruction of natural habitat, human-wildlife conflict will continue and requires urgent attention in order to mitigate the issue.
Aims of the project:
Project manager - Andrei Snyman
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