Using Camera Trapping to Assess the Influence of Habitat, Prey and Competitors on African Leopard Occurrence

Student thesis: Master's Thesis

Abstract

The African leopard (Panthera pardus) has lost over half of its former range in recent decades,
with national parks and reserves maintaining vital source populations, particularly in East
Africa. Protected areas are increasingly acting as critical refugia for wildlife, serving as
protection for extensive ecological processes and ecosystem functions. Due to increasing
human encroachment into the remaining habitat of large predators, there is an urgent need to
understand the underlying processes which drive co-occurrence among apex predators.
Camera traps are increasingly being used to determine relationships between sympatric
mammals and environmental characteristics, often with a view to inferring interspecific
interactions. In this context, this study aimed to investigate the environmental factors
influencing leopard occurrence from photographic data collected across 34 camera stations,
over a single season, in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Logistic regression
modelling indicated that leopard occurrence was significantly influenced by the presence of
spotted hyeanas (Crocuta crocuta) (Wald ꭕ2 (1) = 6.526, p = 0.011). These findings suggest
that lion presence, prey, and habitat did not have a strong influence on the occurrence of
leopards. Lions (Panthera leo) and hyeanas pose a threat to individual leopards, yet, relatively
little is known of the processes facilitating co-occurrence between carnivore guild members,
particularly leopards. Further research should investigate how resilient leopards are to the
effects of intra-guild competition, particularly in areas used intensively by leopards and
hyeanas. Understanding intra-guild interactions is key to conserving one of last intact
carnivore guilds in the world, within the boundaries of one of Africa’s most outstanding
protected areas.
Date of Award7 Nov 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorBryony Tolhurst (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Camera trapping
  • leopard
  • spotted hyeana
  • protected area
  • co-occurrence

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