The Ecology and Management of Kalahari lions in a Conflict Area in Central Botswana

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Doctor of Philosophy
Title The Ecology and Management of Kalahari lions in a Conflict Area in Central Botswana
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
African Lions (Panthera leo) are an keys species in many natural
ecosystems in Africa and provide income and ecosystem services to many
human communities. They directly limit herbivore populations, which in turn
maintain grasslands and associated systems. Those ecosystems have
degraded in recent decades and the concurrent decline in lion population is
believed to play a role. I investigated factors affecting lion behaviour and
ecology including the effect of seasonal variation in wild prey herd size. Current
levels of herbivore prey are significantly lower than before the creation of
countrywide veterinary cordon fences and total lean season biomass was
estimated at 375.5
. I placed GPS position locating radio collars on 13
lions in 6 prides in a study area of approximately 9,911 square kilometres in the
north of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), in central Botswana. The
collars acquired total of 241,858 usable GPS fixes and I visited each lion
monthly. Lion spatial behaviour appears to have changed in response to the
decline in herbivores, although there is only a small amount of historical data.
Lion home ranges were large (mean home range = 2116.5 km2
, range 798.3-
4243.7 km2
) compared to two prides from a study in the 1970s in the same area
which had home ranges of approximately 337 km2
. Those prides increased their
range to today’s sizes only in severe drought years, but rainfall during the study
period was high. I interpret this as evidence that seasonal lower herbivore
densities have increased lion ranges, and reduced the number of lions in the
CKGR. I estimate the current population in the study area at 307 adult lions, or
3.1 lions per 100km2
. During months of high herbivore group densities, lions
travelled further on a daily basis (mean daily movement distance of 7,160 m at
lowest density, to 8,616 m at the highest density), and males on average
travelled significantly further each day than females (mean of 10,071.6m per
day for male, SD = 7099.4, maximum 48,462m and a mean of 7,633.6m per
day for females, SD= 5,069.3m, maximum 29,470m). Females moved similar
distances daily even while supporting cubs under 3 months old. Lions
significantly preferred hunting prey species above 90kg, but also hunted the
smaller warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) and African porcupine (Hystrix
africaeaustralis). This has implications for conflict mitigation and lion
conservation. I investigate the economics and extent of the lion livestock conflict
in Central Botswana and explore potential management options in light of this
new data. Management options should be carefully selected with consideration
for economics, politics and local conditions, and should target locations where
conflict mitigation can have the greatest benefit for both lion conservation and
economic improvement of stakeholders in order to have the best chance for
success. After carefully examining the ecology of the Central Kalahari lions and
the management of the reserve and farms in the area, I conclude that mitigating
lion-livestock conflict is best achieved through improving grazing practices and
not a change in reserve management.

Related studies