The spatial ecology of lion (Panthera leo) and spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park : implications for the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus.
Graf, Jan Andreas.
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The ecological role of apex predators in ecosystems is increasingly recognized not only as a result of their affects on prey species, but also on the numbers and behaviour of other predator species within their guilds. In an African context, dominant apex predators such as lions (Panthera leo) and spotted hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta) have been implicated in limiting endangered intraguild species such as wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) via direct intraguild interactions, such as interference and predation. As a result of this it has been predicted that spatial and temporal refugia are critical for wild dogs to co-exist with lions and spotted hyaenas. Whether such refugia are actually present within small protected areas, such as Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park (HiP), within which these three species co-exist, has been questioned. For wild dogs, interference or predation refugia may be equated to areas or periods which contain a relatively low level of encounter probability with spotted hyaenas and lions respectively. By combining well established field research techniques, such as radio telemetry and audio playbacks, with novel geographic information system tools, I investigated the two key drivers of the probability of encounter with spotted hyaenas and lions, namely density and utilization intensity. Results from the analyses showed that substantial spatial and temporal variation existed in the utilization intensity of lions, as well as the density of both lions and spotted hyaenas, at short and intermediate time scales, in HiP. The spatial scale across which these patterns resolved appear to be well suited to the movement capabilities of wild dogs. This indicated that wild dogs may be able to exploit such areas of temporary lower density and/or utilization intensity, suggesting the dynamic nature of refugia involved in the interactions within these two species-pairs. Results from the lion analyses further suggest that groups rather than individuals are the basic units around which intraguild interactions of social predator and prey species should be investigated, and that social grouping in combination with predator territoriality may stabilize intraguild interactions. An important prediction emerging from this work is that wild dogs, or other subordinate African large predator species, may be forced to trade-off safety from hyaena interference vs. safety from lion predation.