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Assessment of resource use and landscape risk for African lions (Panthera leo) in eastern Botswana

Andrei Snyman, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


African lion (Panthera leo) populations have declined in recent decades due to various anthropogenic factors with range contraction of over 75% and an estimated 20,000 – 30,000 left in Africa. The majority of extant lion populations are of small size, and geographically isolated from each other further compromising their persistence. The purposes of this study were to 1) examine anthropogenic factors affecting the social organization of lions, 2) determine lion resource utilization and 3) identify and create predictive lion corridors in the Greater-Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GM-TFCA). Results from our study indicate that high rates of indiscriminate anthropogenic mortality constrained population size in the NTGR where 94.7% of adult mortality occurred outside the reserve. Understanding how animals utilize the landscape is central to conservation biology. We also investigate lion habitat resource selection by means of resource utilization functions (RUF). We found that at the population level elevation in the dry season was the only significant factor detected for lion space use (β ± SE) (-0.278 ± 0.107). Lions showed a strong avoidance of close proximity to human settlements at the individual level across seasons with over 66% (12/18) selecting for areas further away from human settlements. Lions moved randomly across the landscape independent of vegetation type. While isolated small protected areas (PA’s) fall short of preserving wide-ranging, low density species like lions, a network of small PA’s connected by corridors can in itself function as a larger body through which the viability and sustainability of lions can be maintained. For this we implement Circuit Theory modeling in an attempt to identify lion corridors within the GM-TFCA. Nine potential lion corridors stemming from six core territories were identified in this study. Within the 9 corridors, three barriers were identified - all located on the South African side of the TFCA restricting lion movement. Successful lion conservation lies in continued protection of existing protected areas and the creation of corridors that link them together.

Subject Area

Wildlife Conservation|Conservation|Natural Resource Management

Recommended Citation

Snyman, Andrei, "Assessment of resource use and landscape risk for African lions (Panthera leo) in eastern Botswana" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10101132.