Research Papers

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Estimating population sizes of lions Panthera leo and spotted hyaenas Crocuta crocuta in Uganda's savannah parks, using lure count methods.

Despite 60 years of conservation in Uganda's national parks the populations of lions and spotted hyaenas in these areas have never been estimated using a census method. Estimates for some sites have been extrapolated to other protected areas and educated guesses have been made but there has been nothing more definitive. We used a lure count analysis method of call-up counts to estimate populations of the lion Panthera leo and spotted hyaena Crocuta crocuta in the parks where reasonable numbers of these species exist: Queen Elizabeth Protected Area, Murchison Falls Conservation Area and Kidepo Valley National Park. We estimated a total of 408 lions and 324 hyaenas for these three conservation areas. It is unlikely that other conservation areas in Uganda host 10 lions or 40 hyaenas. The Queen Elizabeth Protected Area had the largest populations of lions and hyaenas: 140 and 211, respectively. It is estimated that lion numbers have declined by 30% in this protected area since the late 1990s and there are increasing concerns for the long-term viability of both species in Uganda.

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Response of lions (Panthera leo LINNAEUS 1758) and spotted hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta ERXLEBEN 1777) to sound playbacks

Estimating lion population sizes is crucial for wildlife management and policy decisions. Techniques for estimation vary and those previously used often underestimate sizes or are of poor accuracy. More recently, lure surveys, using playback sounds, have been used to model population sizes and have produced reliable results compared with known population sizes. We investigate whether certain factors (time of playback, phase of the moon, presence of other species) affect the response of carnivores to playbacks. If these factors impair carnivore behaviour, population estimates derived from lure surveys are prone to be biased.

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Beyond ritual and economics: Maasai lion hunting and conservation politics

Populations of the African lion Panthera leo are declining dramatically, with the species’ survival in some areas closely linked to levels of tolerance by rural communities. In Tanzania and Kenya several of the remaining lion populations outside protected areas reside adjacent to rural communities, where they are hunted. As many of these communities are Maasai, research and conservation efforts have focused on understanding and curbing Maasai lion hunting practices. Much of this work has been informed by a dichotomous explanatory model of Maasai lion hunting as either a ‘cultural’ ritual or a ‘retaliatory’ behaviour against predation on livestock. We present qualitative data from interviews (n = 246) in both countries to illustrate that lion hunting by Maasai is related to overlapping motivations that are simultaneously social, emotional and political (in response to conservation initiatives). Additional case study material from Tanzania highlights how politics associated with conservation activities and age-set dynamics affect lion hunting in complex and overlapping ways. Our findings contribute an ethnographic perspective on Maasai lion hunting, people–predator relations, and how these relations are linked to conservation politics.

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