Cost effective assessment of human and habitat factors essential for critically endangered lions in West Africa
Kiki MAD., Astaras C., Montgomery RA., Henschel P., Tehou A., Macdonald D., Bauer H.
Conflict with humans and habitat fragmentation are major threats to large carnivores in Africa, and transboundary protected areas may ease some of the space requirements for individual countries. The W-Arly-Pendjari complex (WAP) in West Africa sits across Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger and is the last regional stronghold for many species, including the regionally critically endangered lion Panthera leo. However, variation in monitoring efforts, limited resources and imperfect coordination confound their conservation. We demonstrate a cost-effective and scalable design to effectively identify the landscape-level factors that limit the distribution and abundance of large carnivores and their preferred prey. We used an occupancy framework for a combination of spoor and line transect data. We found a high degree of variation in prey density, strongly related to evapotranspiration. Lion occupancy increased in areas of high riparian forest cover, far from hunting concessions and with more pastoralist activities. Hyaena occupancy was inversely related to anthropogenic pressures, and positively related to dense vegetation and overall prey density. We discuss conservation challenges such as illegal hunting and grazing in the context of transboundary management.