Socio-spatial behaviour of an African lion population following perturbation by sport hunting
Davidson Z., Valeix M., Loveridge AJ., Madzikanda H., Macdonald DW.
Hunting of individuals from a population can affect its demography and socio-spatial parameters. This study provided opportunities to assess such effects, and may help to improve the conservation of populations threatened by conflict and over-use. We treated the periods before and after a moratorium on the trophy hunting of lions around Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, as a quasi-experimental opportunity to examine changes in lion socio-spatial behaviour during and after perturbation. Changes in ranging behaviour coincided with the release from heavy mortality from hunting outside the Park and were likely to be due to changes in the perturbation regime, rather than factors such as prey abundance, which did not change over the study period. Lion home range sizes decreased in both sexes after the moratorium. Overlap between groups decreased in males but increased in females. Variation in home range size reduced both annually and seasonally for both sexes. Home range centres became more closely distributed. Lions increased the use of denser vegetation cover classes (>30%) and decreased the use of open cover classes (10-30%). Lions increased the use of areas within 2-5. km of water, and decreased their use of the >20. km class. Perturbation therefore appeared to influence the socio-spatial behavior of the lion population. Managers considering the use of moratoria as a conservation tool must anticipate changes in the behavior and distribution of the target species. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.