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Mechanisms facilitating coexistence between leopards (Panthera pardus) and their competitors in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Rafiq, K (2019) Mechanisms facilitating coexistence between leopards (Panthera pardus) and their competitors in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Abstract

Large carnivores provide key ecological services to ecosystems, and full species assemblages are thought to be important in maintaining full ecosystem function. The African large carnivore guild represents one of the last functionally intact guilds of large carnivores on Earth, but relatively little is known of the mechanisms facilitating coexistence between some of its members. As such, I investigate coexistence mechanisms between leopards (Panthera pardus) and their competitors and present four pieces of original research on leopard ecology and monitoring, primarily within the framework of carnivore interactions. To this end, I focus on sympatric populations of wild, but habituated, lions (Panthera leo), leopards, African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), and cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) in northern Botswana. Data were primarily collected through a combination of field-based observations, high-resolution GPS radio collars, and tourist-contributed photographs. I found that at both broad- and fine- scales, leopards were largely resilient to the effects of intraguild competition. Specifically, I found little evidence that spatio-temporal niches were driven by predator avoidance and found limited impacts of competitor encounters on leopard behaviours and movements. In the context of intraspecific competition, my thesis also informs on the optimal scent marking strategies used by leopards to communicate with conspecifics, presumably, in part, to facilitate territory maintenance. Specifically, leopards invested more in maintaining scent marks at home range boundaries and scent marked at higher frequencies on roads. My thesis results also highlight the potential of using tourist photographs to monitor large carnivore densities within protected areas. In sum, my findings provide key insights into the coexistence mechanisms between leopards and their competitors and provide a framework for sustainable citizen-driven wildlife monitoring programs.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: African carnivores; Ecology; Citizen-science; Spatial ecology; Intraguild competition; Leopard; Panthera pardus
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Natural Sciences & Psychology (closed 31 Aug 19)
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2019 09:07
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2019 09:08
Supervisors: Meloro, C, Wich, S and Hayward, M
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10836

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