WildCRU’s long term research project on big cats in Zimbabwe
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.01.030.
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.