Research Papers

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Lion hunting behaviour and vegetation structure in an African savanna

Emerging evidence suggests that male lions are not dependent on female's hunting skills but are in fact successful hunters. But difficulty locating kills and objectively characterizing landscapes has complicated the comparison of male and female lion hunting strategies. We used airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) measurements of vegetation structure in Kruger National Park, combined with global positioning system (GPS) telemetry data on lion, Panthera leo, kills to quantify lines-of-sight where lion kills occurred compared with areas where lions rested, while controlling for time of day. We found significant differences in use of vegetation structure by male and female lions during hunts. While male lions killed in landscapes with much shorter lines-of-sight (16.2 m) than those in which they rested, there were no significant differences for female lions. These results were consistent across sizes of prey species. The influence of vegetation structure in shaping predator–prey interactions is often hypothesized, but quantitative evidence has been scarce. Although our sample sizes were limited, our results provide a mechanism, ambush hunting versus social hunting in the open, to explain why hunting success of male lions might equal that of females. This study serves as a case study for more complete studies with larger samples sizes and illustrates how LiDAR and GPS telemetry can be used to provide new insight into lion hunting behaviour.

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Tuberculosis in African lions

Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) is the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis (BTB) in domestic and wild animals, as well as in humans. Although the risk of M. bovis infection in many developed countries has been drastically reduced by national and international BTB control programs, the global economic impact of M. bovis is considerable, and it still constitutes a major zoonotic risk in developing countries. The presence of M. bovis in wildlife creates a complicated wildlife-livestock-human interface, and may threaten the conservation of vulnerable wildlife species like the lion.

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African lion (Panthera leo) behavior, monitoring, and survival in human-dominated landscapes

In this dissertation, I present the first long-term study of a lion population living on nonprotected human-dominated lands and that is often in direct conflict with humans. I explore basic behavioral and ecological characteristics of the lion population, particularly in relation to human settlements and stock-raiding behaviors, and examine the effectiveness of employing local lion killers in lion monitoring. I then examine the metapopulation of lions in Kenya and Tanzania and incorporate specific life-history traits to consider the implications for regional lion conservation

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