Research Papers

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Interpreting the diet of lions (Panthera leo); a comparison of various methods of analysis

Details of kills made by lions on Shamwari Private Game Reserve, South Africa, were routinely recorded by staff for three years after reintroduction of the lions, and we used these data to establish the prey profile, prey selection and daily intake rates (kg/FEQ/day). The opportunistic nature of the observations of kills resulted in gaps in the records which we attempted to resolve by analysing both the complete data set and a subset of data in which we omitted kills that were made more than five days apart. The full data set (n = 360 kills) comprised 23 species over three years (1095 days) while the subset (n = 227 kills) comprised 16 species in 368 days. Prey preference (Jacobs\' index) was calculated using both data sets and aerial game counts for species availability. Aerial game counts were used both with and without correction for differences in visibility. Prey profiles were very similar for the two data sets with the same species preferred (black wildebeest, ostrich, warthog) and avoided (springbok, impala, common duiker). Prey preferences were calculated separately for each year, and revealed a switch from a preference for blesbok to avoidance, and the reverse for warthog. There was no significant difference in the mean prey size using either data set (full data set,131.5 kg; subset of data,133.1 kg). The two data sets did generate very different daily intake rates, however, with higher values from the subset of data (9.3 kg/FEQ/day year 1) than the full data set (4.6 kg/FEQ/day in year 1). We conclude that kills located by drive vehicles on small ecotourism reserves can be used to establish prey profiles. Removing gaps in the kill lists will increase the accuracy of the profiles and is essential for calculation of kill rates and daily food consumption.

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Lost populations and preserving genetic diveristy in the lion Panthera leo: Implications for ex situ conservation

North African Barbary lion (Panthera leo leo) and South African Cape lion (Panthera leo melanochaita), have become extinct in the wild in the last 150 years. Based on sequences of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region (HVR1) extracted from museum specimens of four Barbary and one Cape lion, the former was probably a distinct population characterized by an invariable, unique mtDNA haplotype, whilst the latter was likely a part of the extant southern African lion population. Extinction of the Barbary line, which may still be found in ‘‘generic’’ zoo lions, would further erode lion genetic diversity. Therefore, appropriate management of such animals is important for maintaining the overall genetic diversity of the species.

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Effects of kinship on territorial conflicts among groups of lions, Panthera leo

Inclusive fitness theory predicts that cost of tolerant behaviour during competitive interactions is lower for relatives than for nonrelatives. Many studies have examined the effect of relatedness on behaviour within social groups. In contrast, kin selection acting among groups has received less attention. The genetic structure of African lion (Panthera leo) populations creates a strong possibility that kin selection among groups modifies behaviour during group conflicts. We used playback experiments and genetic data to investigate the importance of relatedness during simulated territorial disputes in lions. However, we found no effect of relatedness on territorial behaviour. Degree of relatedness did not affect the decision to approach simulated intrusions, nor did it affect the behaviour during approaches. The decision to approach was instead affected by position within the territory and consecutive playback number (a measure of habituation). For playbacks that did elicit an approach, the speed of response was not detectably affected by relatedness, but was affected by odds (the ratio of residents to intruders), number of intruders, number of bouts, presence of cubs, position within the territory, temperature and playback number. Although responses were unaffected by relatedness, it remains possible that other aspects of behaviour during natural encounters among prides are affected by kin selection.

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