Botswana Predator Conservation Trust

Maun, Botswana

Botswana Predator Conservation Trust

Maun, Botswana
Time filter
Source Type

Jackson C.R.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | Jackson C.R.,Norwegian University of Science and Technology | McNutt J.W.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | Apps P.J.,Paul G Allen Laboratory For Wildlife Chemistry
Wildlife Research | Year: 2012

Context. Conflict between large carnivores and livestock outside the boundaries of wildlife areas frequently results in losses to both livestock and predator populations. The endangered African wild dog (Lycaon pictus Temminck, 1820) is wide ranging and unrestricted by conventional fences, thereby posing a major challenge to conservation managers. Wild dogs are territorial and communicate residence using scent marks. Simulating the presence of other wild dogs using translocated foreign scent marks may therefore represent a means to manage wild dog ranging behaviour. Aims. To investigate the effectiveness of using targeted scent-mark deployments to signal a wild dog pack to return to their frequented range within the safety of a protected area. Methods. We report on the ranging behaviour of a wild dog pack reintroduced into a wildlife area in Botswana with no recent history of resident wild dogs. We describe daily movements by the free-ranging introduced pack and compare these to moves following targeted deployment of scent marks when the wild dog pack had ranged close to or outside the boundaries of the protected area. Key results. Targeted foreign scent-mark exposure resulted in the pack moving closer to the geometric centre of its range. The mean distance travelled the day after exposure was significantly greater than the distance travelled the previous day and the mean daily distance moved during the study period. Conclusions. Targeted exposure to foreign scent marks proved to be a viable alternative to recapturing dogs that had ranged beyond the boundaries of the wildlife area. Implications. This novel approach to managing free-ranging carnivores utilises biologically relevant signals and holds potential not only for the conservation of African wild dogs, but also for other territorial species. © CSIRO 2012.

Jordan N.R.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | Jordan N.R.,University of Oxford | Golabek K.A.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | Golabek K.A.,University of Oxford | And 3 more authors.
Ethology | Year: 2013

Scent-marking is common in mammals, but where signals are carried by urine and faeces, distinguishing between scent-marking and mere elimination is problematic. To do so, we documented behaviours and context variables associated with urination and defecation in free-ranging endangered African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) and tested whether these were related to the responses of other dogs to deposits. We found that distinct postures were almost uniquely associated with deposits by dominant wild dogs, were more common during urination than defecation, and increased the likelihood that these deposits would be investigated by other wild dogs. The likelihood of investigation depended on the sex and dominance status of the depositor, the type of deposit and the substrate. Urine from dominant females was more likely to be investigated by other wild dogs than any other deposits, and deposits placed on vegetation were more likely to be investigated than those on bare ground. The likelihood that a deposit would be overmarked was affected by the deposit type and the sex and dominance status of the last depositor. Collectively, these results suggest that dominant wild dog urine is of greatest interest to other dogs. Our results show that some deposits by African wild dogs are not scent-marks and that detailed observations of behaviours and context variables during elimination events can be used to distinguish deposits that are likely to be of communication value. © 2013 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.

News Article | December 2, 2015

The Botswana government has quietly sold the rights to frack for shale gas in one of Africa’s largest protected conservation areas, it has emerged. The Kgalagadi transfrontier park, which spans the border with South Africa, is an immense 36,000 sq km wilderness, home to gemsbok desert antelope, black-maned Kalahari lions and pygmy falcons. But conservationists and top park officials – who were not informed of the fracking rights sale – are now worried about the impact of drilling on wildlife. Prospecting licences for more than half of the park were granted to a UK-listed company called Nodding Donkey in September 2014, although the sale has not been reported previously. That company changed its name earlier this month to Karoo Energy. Park officials said that no drilling has yet taken place, but the Guardian found oil sediment on the ground near a popular camp site. There was an overwhelming smell of tar and a drill stem protruded from an apparently recently drilled hole. It is not known who had carried out the drilling or when. Scientist Gus Mills worked and lived in Kgalagadi for 18 years studying cheetahs and hyenas. He said he is worried about the impact on wildlife and environment. “The development that is going to have to go on there, with infrastructure that has to be moved in, seems to be yet another nail in the coffin of wild areas in the world.” Dr Peter Apps, who studies large predators for the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust , said drilling could have a range of impacts, notably on water sources in the park. He said that if companies develop commercial gas wells here “then that is not good for nature conservation, and because large carnivores are an apex species, they tend to suffer more than anything else”. Ben van Eerden, the tourism manager for the South African side of the park, and Leabaneng Bontshetse, the Botswana Kgalagadi park manager, were not aware of licences being issued. “We haven’t seen any licences being issued, we haven’t been told of anything and there is no company drilling in the park,” said Bontshetse. He was concerned that the Botswana department of minerals may have already issued licences: “I am surprised and I am shocked.” A map of the 2014 drilling licences shows more than half of the Kgalagadi park on the Botswana side was up for sale to gas prospecting companies last year. In a company statement issued in April, Karoo Energy under its previous name of Nodding Donkey said it had acquired three fracking licences covering 29,291, 34,435 and 23,980 sq km in September 2014 through two of its majority-owned subsidiaries, Equatorial Oil and Tamboran. The Guardian made several efforts to contact Karoo Energy but the company did not respond. The Botswana government was also approached for comment but did not reply. The government previously acknowledged that foreign companies had been fracking for gas in the country after the Guardian uncovered gas developments in other national parks. Olmo von Meijenfeldt, director of the South African organisation Democracy Works, is concerned about the impact on rural communities. “Governments should be reluctant if not downright hostile towards extracting natural resources for a short-term benefit that will contribute to a deterioration of habitat and our long-term capacity for sustainable development and poverty alleviation.” According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, Botswana’s growing tourism industry is the second biggest income earner after diamonds and employs 32,000 people. Mills says he believes that commercial development in the park will make it much less attractive to visitors and “devastate” tourist income. He sees the move as driven by short-term economic motives. “It’s a microcosm of what we are doing to the whole planet, as long as its going to make someone some money that seems to be all that’s important.” Alliance Earth paid for travel and accommodation for Jeffrey Barbee. Additional reporting by Mira Dutschke and Nabeelah Shabbir

Broekhuis F.,University of Oxford | Cozzi G.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | Cozzi G.,University of Zürich | Valeix M.,University of Oxford | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Animal Ecology | Year: 2013

Risks of predation or interference competition are major factors shaping the distribution of species. An animal's response to risk can either be reactive, to an immediate risk, or predictive, based on preceding risk or past experiences. The manner in which animals respond to risk is key in understanding avoidance, and hence coexistence, between interacting species. We investigated whether cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), known to be affected by predation and competition by lions (Panthera leo) and spotted hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta), respond reactively or predictively to the risks posed by these larger carnivores. We used simultaneous spatial data from Global Positioning System (GPS) radiocollars deployed on all known social groups of cheetahs, lions and spotted hyaenas within a 2700 km2 study area on the periphery of the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana. The response to risk of encountering lions and spotted hyaenas was explored on three levels: short-term or immediate risk, calculated as the distance to the nearest (contemporaneous) lion or spotted hyaena, long-term risk, calculated as the likelihood of encountering lions and spotted hyaenas based on their cumulative distributions over a 6-month period and habitat-associated risk, quantified by the habitat used by each of the three species. We showed that space and habitat use by cheetahs was similar to that of lions and, to a lesser extent, spotted hyaenas. However, cheetahs avoided immediate risks by positioning themselves further from lions and spotted hyaenas than predicted by a random distribution. Our results suggest that cheetah spatial distribution is a hierarchical process, first driven by resource acquisition and thereafter fine-tuned by predator avoidance; thus suggesting a reactive, rather than a predictive, response to risk. © 2013 British Ecological Society.

Cozzi G.,University of Zürich | Broekhuis F.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | Broekhuis F.,University of Oxford | Mcnutt J.W.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | And 3 more authors.
Ecology | Year: 2012

Africa is home to the last intact guild of large carnivores and thus provides the only opportunity to investigate mechanisms of coexistence among large predator species. Strong asymmetric dominance hierarchies typically characterize guilds of large carnivores; but despite this asymmetry, subdominant species may persist alongside their stronger counterparts through temporal partitioning of habitat and resources. In the African guild, the subdominant African wild dogs and cheetahs are routinely described as diurnal and crepuscular. These activity patterns have been interpreted to result from the need to avoid encounters with the stronger, nocturnal spotted hyenas and lions. However, the idea that diel activity patterns of carnivore species are strongly shaped by competition and predation has recently been challenged by new observations. In a three-year study in the Okavango Delta, we investigated daily activity patterns and temporal partitioning for wild dogs, cheetahs, spotted hyenas and lions by fitting radio collars that continuously recorded activity bursts, to a total of 25 individuals. Analysis of activity patterns throughout the 24-h cycle revealed an unexpectedly high degree of temporal overlap among the four species. This was mainly due to the extensive and previously undescribed nocturnal activity of wild dogs and cheetahs. Their nocturnal activity fluctuated with the lunar cycle, represented up to 40% of the diel activity budget and was primarily constrained by moonlight availability. In contrast, the nocturnal activity patterns of lions and hyenas were unaffected by moonlight and remained constant over the lunar cycle. Our results suggest that other ecological factors such as optimal hunting conditions have shaped the diel activity patterns of subdominant, large predators. We suggest that they are "starvation driven" and must exploit every opportunity to obtain a meal. The benefits of activity on moonlit nights therefore offset the risks of encountering night-active predators and competitors. © 2012 by the Ecological Society of America.

Cozzi G.,University of Zürich | Broekhuis F.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | Broekhuis F.,University of Oxford | McNutt J.W.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | Schmid B.,University of Zürich
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2013

Top predators significantly impact ecosystem dynamics and act as important indicator species for ecosystem health. However, reliable density estimates for top predators, considered necessary for the development of management plans and ecosystem monitoring, are challenging to obtain. This study aims to establish baseline density estimates for two top predators, spotted hyena and lion, in the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana. Using calling stations, we surveyed free-ranging populations of the two species and investigated methodological variables that might influence results about distributions and densities, including habitat type, seasonality, and different types of playback sounds. Calling stations were distributed over a survey area of approximately 1,800 km2 characterized by three major habitat types: mopane woodland, floodplain and mixed acacia sandveld. Results indicate spotted hyenas were evenly distributed independent of habitat type and season throughout the survey area with an overall density estimate of 14.4 adults/100 km2. In contrast, lion distribution and density varied significantly with habitat and season. Lion density in the prey-poor mopane woodland was near zero, while in the comparatively prey-rich floodplains it was estimated at 23.1 individuals/100 km2 resulting in a weighted average density of 5.8 individuals/100 km2 across the entire study area. In testing the effect of varying playback sounds we found that both species were significantly more likely to respond to calls of conspecifics. Our results show how several methodological variables may influence density estimates and emphasize the importance of standardized calling-station survey methods to allow consistent replication of surveys and comparison of results that can be used for landscape-scale monitoring of large predator species. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

Apps P.,Paul G Allen Family Foundation Laboratory for Wildlife Chemistry | Mmualefe L.,Paul G Allen Family Foundation Laboratory for Wildlife Chemistry | McNutt J.W.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust
Journal of Chemical Ecology | Year: 2012

Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry was used to identify 103 organic compounds from urine, feces, anal glands, and preputial glands of free-ranging African wild dogs, Lycaon pictus. Aliphatic acids were the dominant class of compound in all materials. In addition to aliphatic acids, urine contained dimethyl sulfone, 1,3-propanediol, benzoic acid, 1-methyl-2,4-imidazolidinedione, and squalene as major components: feces contained indole and cholesterol; and both contained 2-piperidone, phenol, 4-methyl phenol, benzeneacetic acid, and benzenepropanoic acid and other compounds. Anal gland secretion was particularly rich in cholesterol and fatty acids, and preputial gland secretion rich in squalene. A large majority of the identified compounds have been reported from other mammals, including species sympatric with African wild dogs. Eleven of the African wild dog components have not been reported previously from mammals and have not been found in sympatric species; one component, 1-methylimidazole-5-carboxaldehyde has not been reported previously as a natural product. In the chemical profiles of their urine, feces, and anal gland secretion African wild dogs differ markedly from other canids. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media New York.

Broekhuis F.,University of Oxford | Grunewalder S.,University College London | McNutt J.W.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | Macdonald D.W.,University of Oxford
Behavioral Ecology | Year: 2014

Foraging requirements and predation risk shape activity patterns and temporal behavior patterns widely across taxa. Although this has been extensively studied in small mammals, the influence of predation and prey acquisition on the activity and behavior of large carnivores has received little attention. The diurnal activity described as typical for cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) has been explained in terms of their avoidance of antagonistic interactions with other larger predators. However, a recent study revealed that cheetahs are frequently active at night, especially during periods of full moon. Being both predator and "prey" in an environment with comparatively high densities of larger and competitively dominant nocturnal predator species, we investigated whether cheetah nocturnal behavior could be explained by favorable conditions for 1) predator avoidance or 2) prey acquisition. We used a data set of continuously recorded behavior created using machine-learning techniques on behavioral data collected in the field to transform recorded 2D activity values from radio-collars into 3 distinct behavioral states (feeding, moving, and resting). We found that 32.5% of cheetah feeding behavior occurred at night and that, in the dry season, nocturnal feeding behavior was positively correlated with moonlight intensity. Our results suggest that nocturnal and circalunar behavior of cheetahs is driven by optimal hunting conditions, outweighing the risks of encountering other predators. Using novel methodology, the results provide new insights into the temporal distribution of behavior, contributing to our understanding of the importance of moonlight and season on the behavior patterns of diurnal species. © 2014 © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology. All rights reserved.

Cozzi G.,University of Zürich | Broekhuis F.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | Broekhuis F.,University of Oxford | Mcnutt J.W.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | Schmid B.,University of Zürich
Journal of Animal Ecology | Year: 2013

Summary: Physical barriers contribute to habitat fragmentation, influence species distribution and ranging behaviour, and impact long-term population viability. Barrier permeability varies among species and can potentially impact the competitive balance within animal communities by differentially affecting co-occurring species. The influence of barriers on the spatial distribution of species within whole communities has nonetheless received little attention. During a 4-year period, we studied the influence of a fence and rivers, two landscape features that potentially act as barriers on space use and ranging behaviour of lions Panthera leo, spotted hyenas Crocuta crocuta, African wild dogs Lycaon pictus and cheetahs Acinonyx jubatus in Northern Botswana. We compared the tendencies of these species to cross the barriers using data generated from GPS-radio collars fitted to a total of 35 individuals. Barrier permeability was inferred by calculating the number of times animals crossed a barrier vs. the number of times they did not cross. Finally, based on our results, we produced a map of connectivity for the broader landscape system. Permeability varied significantly between fence and rivers and among species. The fence represented an obstacle for lions (permeability = 7·2%), while it was considerably more permeable for hyenas (35·6%) and wild dogs and cheetahs (≥50%). In contrast, the rivers and associated floodplains were relatively permeable to lions (14·4%) while they represented a nearly impassable obstacle for the other species (<2%). The aversion of lions to cross the fence resulted in a relatively lion-free habitat patch on one side of the fence, which might provide a potential refuge for other species. For instance, the competitively inferior wild dogs used this refuge significantly more intensively than the side of the fence with a high presence of lions. We showed that the influence of a barrier on the distribution of animals could potentially result in a broad-scale modification of community structure and ecology within a guild of co-occurring species. As habitat fragmentation increases, understanding the impact of barriers on species distributions is thus essential for the implementation of landscape-scale management strategies, the development and maintenance of corridors and the enhancement of connectivity. © 2013 British Ecological Society.

McNutt J.W.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | Gusset M.,Botswana Predator Conservation Trust | Gusset M.,University of Oxford
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society | Year: 2012

Body size affects almost every aspect of the biology of a species. According to the 'resource rule', decreasing resource availability (e.g. prey density) will lead to a reduction in body size or, alternatively, a decline in mass-independent energy expenditure. In the present study, we provide a test of this hypothesis, assessing the effect of significantly decreasing prey density on endangered African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) body size and energy expenditure over a 20-year period. As predicted from the 'resource rule', decreasing resource availability resulted in energetic re-allocation: wild dogs' body size decreased significantly (both shorter and slimmer), whereas our fitness-related measure of energy expenditure (i.e. litter size) remained constant over time. A phenotypic change of up to 17% within 20 years, as found in the present study, appears to be unprecedented in a nonharvested large mammal, thus advancing the emerging field of eco-evolutionary dynamics. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London.

Loading Botswana Predator Conservation Trust collaborators
Loading Botswana Predator Conservation Trust collaborators