Conservation ecology of leopards (Panthera pardus) in northern Botswana: movement and communication
African leopard populations are declining, but the species retains a broad geographic range across Africa and Asia, occupying niches from open savannah to closed rainforests. Understanding the details of leopard landscape-use is key to conserving appropriate habitat and ensuring predator assemblages remain intact for retention of full ecosystem function. Otherwise, decreasing populations can lead to trophic cascades with detrimental ecological consequences. Equally important is the need to understand the mechanisms regulating individual spacing. This is particularly significant for species like the leopard, which need to balance effective intra-specific communication with avoiding detection by more dominant predators (e.g. lions, P. leo) and prey.
The overall aim of my project is to investigate the conservation ecology of leopards in northern Botswana, particularly by focusing on leopard movement and communication. I will achieve these aims by marrying a tech-focused approach with in-field observations, sampling, and experimental presentation of signals.
My specific aims are to:
- determine the relationship between leopard signal content, longevity, and distribution on leopard spatio-temporal movement ecology;
- determine the role of inter-specific eavesdropping risk on the signalling strategies of leopards;
- determine the response of leopards to the signals of conspecifics, predators (lions and hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta)) and prey;
- provide detailed information on habitat selection;
- identify characteristics of den/lair sites