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Discovering tomorrow

Centre for African Conservation Ecology

26/04/2016

As part of his PhD on the landscape ecology of apex predators, Kristoffer Everatt (pictured here with his daughter, Eden) is investigating how free grazing cattle and reduced prey densities influence the feeding ecology and space use of lions. To do this he is GPS tracking lion prides that have access to varying densities of wild prey and cattle in and around the Limpopo National Park, Mozambique.

He is currently collaring lions for the first time in this region of Mozambique. The collaring process is challenging due to the remoteness of the region where only a small proportion of the home ranges of each of the selected lion prides can be accessed by roads. This means that to capture the lions Kristoffer and his team are limited in their bait site options and therefore have to wait patiently for the lions to pass through these few accessible areas.

An additional challenge is that the lions in this region are often persecuted and therefore wary of humans. After 11 nights of baiting, the first pride finally came in one night only to immediately run away when they saw Kristoffer's research vehicle. Kris then altered the protocol and now does the baiting and darting from within a canvas tent camouflaged with branches with the vehicle parked far away from the site. This system seems to be working and he has now caught and collared lions from two of the seven prides.

In addition to using the GPS data for his thesis, Kris, working closely with the Limpopo National Park rangers, is using this detailed information on lion space use to direct snare removal and poison removal in areas that will most benefit lion conservation in the park.