carnivore landscapes project

Carnivores are under increasing pressure, particularly in Malawi which has a very high population density and the second highest rate of deforestation in Southern Africa. Urbanisation is a growing threat to carnivores across Africa, which is predicted to contain

Protected areas alone cannot sustain carnivore populations. CRM believes the future for carnivore populations is dependant on facilitating coexistence between carnivores and communities rather than simply sustaining populations within the habitat islands of national parks. If carnivores are to survive in the anthropocene they will need to exhibit behavioural plasticity to adapt to changes in resource distribution and abundance within the expanding anthroporgenic matrix. Through the Carnivore Landscapes Project (CLP) CRM aims to increase our understanding of the behavioural ecology of carnivores across landscapes. We are assessing the changes in resource use and diet of carnivores in a range of environments to inform sustainable planning and landscape management and identify those landscape parameters which are critical for human-carnivore coexistence.

Aims

The CLP aims to:

  1. Assess the occupancy rates of carnivores across landscapes focusing on hyaena, leopard and mesocarnivores
  2. Identify the landscape level predictors of carnivore occupancy and co-occurance
  3. Examine relationships between co-predator activity rates to assess levels of intra-guild competition
  4. Assess deitary flexibiity across landscapes

Research Techniques

Camera Trapping

camera trapping

We use remote camera traps to assess the distribution and relative occurance of carnivores. Traps are placed in the bush attached to a tree and record all passing animals. Traps are set using a systematic grid approach to ensure good coverage of the study area. We use occupancy modelling to estimate the predictors of multi-season carnivore occupancy and co-occurance.



scat analysis

Hyaena scats

We conduct scat transects across landscapes and collect fecal samples from all carnivore species. Once collected we wash and process them back in the CRM field labs and conduct follicle and cross section analysis to identify the prey species consumed. This allows us to compare the diet of carnivores across landscapes to assess thier dietary flexibility and diet overlap between species.

 

 

Audio Playbackscall ins

We conduct standardised annual acoustic playbacks (Mills et al. 2001) to census carnivores on in each study area. During playbacks large mammal distress calls and carnivore social calls are emitted from a large speaker placed on the roof of a vehicle to attract carnivores which are then counted.

 

 

Large Mammal Transect Surveys

Standardised road transects are conducted throughout the study areas during the daytime to assess the density and distribution of large mammal prey (impala, waterbuck etc). Five kilometre transects are driven systematically and all large mammal species are recorded. Prey densities are calculated using distance sampling (Buckland et al. 1993). This will allow us to assess whether prey is abundant or scarce, as this will affect the long-term viability of carnivores. This is fundamental ecological information needed to inform species conservation and landscape management for the benefit of carnivores and the wider ecosystem.

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