WildCRU’s long term research project on big cats in Zimbabwe

May 28, 2014

Conserving big cats involves understanding the dynamics of the ecosystems that support them. Predators not only eat prey, they frighten them – thus influencing both their numbers and their behaviour. WildCRU’s long term project on lions in Zimbabwe studies the trade-off faced by prey species seeking to avoid predators but nonetheless having to visit risky habitats to access key resources such as water and forage. In a collaborative study with the CNRS -HERD team, we recently found that the quality of zebra diet is influenced by whether or not lions are present. Zebras make a trade-off between searching for high quality grazing and avoiding predation (Barnier, F., Valiex, M., Duncan, P., Chamaillé-Jammes, S., Barre, P., Loveridge, A.J., Macdonald, D.W., Fritz, H., 2014. Diet quality in a wild grazer declines under the threat of predation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B).

Other recent publications from the Zimbabwe lion team include a new method to study dynamic interactions from tracking data. The method takes into account serial correlation in relocations and using this method, we studied dynamic interactions in 55 free-ranging lions. We found one case of avoidance in shared area; others were attraction/independent movements. Unexpectedly, males tended to move independently in shared home range sections.

Benhamou, S., Valeix, M., Chamaillé-Jammes, S., Macdonald, D.W., Loveridge, A.J., 2014. Movement-based analysis of interactions in African lions. Animal Behaviour

The following papers from the team are available to view online early:

Elliot, N., Valiex, M., Macdonald, D.W., Loveridge, A.J., online early. Social relationships affect dispersal timing revealing a delayed infanticide in African lions. Oikos.

Morandin, C., Loveridge, A.J., Segelbacher, G., Elliot, N., Madzikanda, H., Macdonald, D.W., Hoglund, J., Online early. Gene flow and immigration:genetic diversity and population structure of lions (Panthera leo) in Hwange National Park. Conservation Genetics DOI 10.1007/s10592-014-0571-6.