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The behavioural ecology and predator-prey interactions of leopards (Panthera pardus) and chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) in an Afromontane environment

AYERS, ALEC,MANFORD (2019) The behavioural ecology and predator-prey interactions of leopards (Panthera pardus) and chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) in an Afromontane environment. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The interactions between predators and prey have long been considered to play an important role in behaviour, physiology, and evolution. Both predators and prey can influence one another’s spatial and temporal patterns in activity and space use. To understand such dynamic processes, one must simultaneously assess the behavioural ecology of both predator and prey within the same environment. Such analyses have been rare in primatology.
With the aid of behavioural, telemetry, and environmental data collected between the years 2012 and 2017, a combination of methods including home range analyses, resource selection functions, activity pattern analyses and spatial regression models were used to independently test hypotheses relating to space use and activity patterns in chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) and their main predator, the leopard (Panthera pardus) within the western Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa. Collectively, the results allowed me to test hypotheses about how baboons spatially and behaviourally respond to the threat posed by predation. The utilisation of spatial-temporal data deriving from two sympatric species provides not only a detailed assessment on how such animals independently use their environment yet is a novel approach for understanding the complex dynamics of predator-prey interactions.
My results showed that leopards established home ranges in topographically complex and highly vegetated areas while avoiding humans and also preferentially used areas of dense vegetation. Leopards were also less active in these areas, preferentially resting in areas of cover and away from human activity. Although primarily crepuscular, leopards shifted their behaviour when in proximity to humans with an increase in nocturnal activity, with day length and weather also influencing their activity scheduling. Despite the presence of leopards on the landscape, baboons primarily avoided areas that were perceived to be risky from the threat imposed by other baboon groups rather than leopards. In contrast, the probability of encountering leopards had the biggest influence on spatial variation in vigilance. In confirmation of previous studies, risk effects exceeded the importance of food availability in determining range use, although baboons selected areas of greater food availability during winter when food was shortest suggesting that they trade off an increase in risk for foraging opportunities at these times. Despite clear seasonal constraints on behaviour in winter, however, the baboons did not appear to compensate with increased nocturnal activity at these times. This study highlights the value of integrating information on both predators and prey into studies of primate-predator interactions and suggests potential avenues for future research.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:chacma baboons; leopards; predator-prey interactions; landscape of fear; nocturnal activity; resource selection
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:05 Jun 2019 13:05

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