Effects of human land-use on Africa's only forest-dependent felid: The African golden cat Caracal aurata
Bahaa-el-din L., Sollmann R., Hunter LTB., Slotow R., Macdonald DW., Henschel P.
© 2016 . Africa's equatorial forests are threatened by widespread deforestation and bushmeat hunting, with both threats spreading into formerly remote areas due to rapid human population growth and large-scale expansions of commercial resource extraction such as logging and mining, as well as forest clearing for agriculture. Many globally threatened species are endemic to these forests, but the potential effects of these threats are not well understood. Using the case of the forest-dependent African golden cat, we assess the potential effects of disturbance including logging and hunting on population density. We applied spatially-explicit capture-recapture models to camera trap data to estimate density across a human land-use gradient at five sites in central Gabon. We found density was highest at a pristine, undisturbed site (16.23 [±5.84 SE] individuals per 100 km2) and lowest at a village site with moderate levels of mostly subsistence bushmeat hunting (3.8 [±2.23 SE] individuals per 100 km2). Logging concessions can support important densities of the species (10.18 [±3.54 SE] and 12.84 [±4.25 SE] individuals per 100 km2), with the higher estimate of the two for the concession certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) versus the non-certified concession. While protected intact forests are the main strongholds for golden cats, well-managed logging concessions may also play an important role in the conservation of golden cats and other threatened species.