Impact of risk on animal behaviour and habitat transition probabilities
du Preez B., Hart T., Loveridge AJ., Macdonald DW.
© 2014 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Lions, Panthera leo, and leopards, Panthera pardus, coexist in space and compete for resources. Although direct killing of leopards by lions has been recorded, avoidance behaviour is an important part of leopard ecology that is difficult to measure through direct observation. Using tracking data from simultaneously collared lions and leopards, we investigated the effect of lion proximity on the behavioural ecology of leopards. We show that proximity to lions influenced leopard habitat use, transition probability and behaviour. Within enclosed habitats, lions were allowed to get closer to leopards before leopards engaged in a flight response. Visual observation data suggest that lions and leopards infrequently come into direct contact. However, tracking data indicate that avoidance was based on relative habitat cover and detectability, and as a result the two species were often located within close proximity. Finding new signals of interaction and avoidance within two well-studied predators with relatively small sample sizes suggests that this approach may have value to other systems, such as predator/prey interactions, or relationships between sympatric species, and at a scale hitherto not possible. This could be used to investigate the costs and benefits of animal foraging where competitive exclusion may occur, and is relevant for the large number of animals that are difficult to observe.