The Ecology of Intraguild Interactions between Carnivore Species

Background

This project is part of the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT), a program that is focusing on the 5 species of the African large carnivore guild; the African wild dog, the lion, the spotted hyena, the leopard and the cheetah.

The study mainly aims at understanding how sympatric, competing carnivore species affect each others’ behavior and ecology, and the mechanisms leading to their coexistence. This broad theme is addressed by investigating patterns of habitat use and patterns of spatial and temporal segregation for the African wild dog, the spotted hyena and the lion. These three species show different degrees of competition and are therefore likely to influence each other at different levels and with different intensities (e.g. lions are expected to have a negative influence on the weaker wild dogs).

Methods

As it is not allowed and desirable to conduct any experiments that change the natural equilibrium within a game reserve, to address our research questions several individuals of the three species—all known to overlap with each other—have been fitted with GPS radio collars. The collars record precise GPS position several times each day so that it is possible to daily follow each collared animal. Patterns of habitat use and patterns of spatial segregation can consequently be determined. The collars are furthermore provided with bidirectional activity sensors that allow investigating periods of activity and inactivity and the intensity of each activity.

Basic ecological data (group composition, reproductive success, diet etc.) are also collected and help to understand the data collected by the GPS collars. Several methods to estimate the density of each species are currently used at BPCT (the intensity of an interaction partially depends on the encounter rate between the competing species and therefore on their density). These include spoor surveys, camera trapping, and calling stations.

Participants

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schmid (Project Leader)
Prof. Dr. Marta Manser
Gabriele Cozzi (Ph.D.)

Co-operation partners

Dr. John W. McNutt, Botswana Predator Conservation Program

Publications

Cozzi, G., Broekhuis, F., McNutt, J.W., Turnbull, L.A., Macdonald, D.W., Schmid, B. (2012). Fear of the dark or dinner by moonlight? Reduced temporal partitioning among Africa’s large carnivores. Ecology 93: 2590-2599.

Cozzi, G., Broekhuis, F., McNutt, J.W., Schmid, B. (in press). Comparison of effects of artificial and natural barriers on large African carnivores. Journal of Applied Ecology.