Original Research

Prey selection of lions Panthera leo in a small, enclosed reserve

R.J. Power
Koedoe | Vol 45, No 2 | a32 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v45i2.32 | © 2002 R.J. Power | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 December 2002 | Published: 14 December 2002

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R.J. Power, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Abstract

Annual trends in numbers of ungulate species on a 15 km² reserve from 1993 to 1998, were evaluated in the context of lion Panthera leo reintroduction during 1996, and subsequent predation by them. The ungulate prey base was enumerated annually by aerial counts and a road count that took place during 1998. The lion prey record was obtained from direct observations of a radio-located pride of eight lions and daily reserve management records. All ungulate species that underwent precipituous declines were also the most important prey to lions, comprising over 80 % of their prey, and they were preyed upon according to their availability. Lion predation was causal for the declines in wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus, Blesbok Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi and Warthog Phacochoerus africana, while the decline in Kudu Tragelaphus strepsiceros was only partly ascribed to lions, as other non-lion related mortality sources were identified. The only ungulate species to increase subsequent to lion reintroduction was the Impala Aepyceros melampus, which was furthermore under-selected by lions. The uncontrolled population growth of Impala could have elicited ecological degradation, and it was advised to either not stock Impala, or otherwise control their numbers if lions are unable to do so. Lion hunting success and kill rate, were 21 % (n = 63) and 1 kill/4.4 days, respectively. Three bushpigs Potamochoerus larvatus were killed but not utilised,and this finding is corroborated by an intensive study in Kwazulu-Natal, and this aversion is discussed. Predators can cause unprecedented declines of their prey where the prey are confined to small reserves that have no refuge from predation. On an annual basis, prey may need to be augmented to sustain predators on small reserves

Keywords

Predation; Predator-prey relationships; Small population management; Small reserves; Wildlife management

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