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Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (2016)

Activity patterns of large carnivores in a fenced conservation area in Laikipia District, Kenya

Augustsson, Evelina

Titre : Activity patterns of large carnivores in a fenced conservation area in Laikipia District, Kenya

Auteur : Augustsson, Evelina

Université de soutenance : Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Grade : MSc Animal Science 2016

Résumé
Large carnivores are sensitive to land-use changes and in African rangelands they have suffered seriously from an increased demand for land for agriculture and husbandry during the last decades. Mammalian carnivores are particularly exposed as they can also attack livestock, and are therefore frequently killed by farmers or wildlife managers. The conflict is a major cause of why most large carnivore populations are declining and is likely to increase with the rapid expansion of human populations. An improved knowledge about the activity patterns and behavior of large carnivores allow a better understanding of their requirements and further advances our understanding of carnivore–livestock interactions which is crucial for conflict mitigation and carnivore conservation. Although activity rhythms of lion and spotted hyena have been previously studied, the migratory behaviors of predators in fenced areas have not yet been thoroughly investigated. The general objective of this study was to investigate spatial and temporal movement patterns and behavior of two top predator species, the African lion (Panthera leo) and the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), in a fenced conservation area with corridors that allowed animal crossings. I also investigated the impact of environmental variables on activity levels. The study was conducted in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a private reserve located in Laikipia District, Kenya. Movement patterns were investigated by measuring activity at a water trough and at two wildlife corridors along the conservancy boundary where these animals can passage to other areas. Activity levels were also compared with the environmental variables moonlight and rainfall. I found that both species are nocturnal but with decreased activity around midnight. Lions and spotted hyenas showed very similar activity patterns. The corridors were frequently used by the predators and my results imply that they leave the conservancy for longer periods than a single night. Moonlight and rainfall had a positive effect on activity levels in spotted hyena but did not seem to be of high importance to lion activity. Differences in activity patterns between the two species could potentially result from intra-guild competition but I suggest that that the activity levels in the study were regulated by other factors such as prey activities or hunting techniques, rather than competition. Different hunting techniques may also explain the different results in weather data correlation between the two species. My results indicate that carnivore-livestock conflict in the Ol Pejeta area could be mitigated by confining livestock at night and during bad weather when predator activities are high.

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