There is a new january update of the ‘Urban Tiger Project’ in Bhopal, India! Click on the LINK to open the report!
Leo Foundation submitted two motions to the IUCN World Conservation Congress, in close collaboration with a number of other IUCN members;
Lion distribution ranges shrunk drastically over the last decades. Also, human conflicts became more and more apparent in Africa. But how do those two processes affect each other?
Leo Foundation has generated a few maps in which we overlay both lion distribution with different types of conflicts. We hope that this information will help in identifying focus areas for lion assessment and lion conservation.
All maps can be found on THIS specific page for this project! Take a look quickly!
Leo Foundation is happy to announce that the results of our large carnivore studies in North Cameroon had finally been published! In this study we show the long term trends of large carnivore populations in space and time. This new baseline is essential for determining conservation efforts in the area in the future. We thanks our lion guards for their tremendous effort in gathering all the data in the field, all authors and co-authors in compiling all data into this important article. Last, this research has only been possible with the financial help of US Fish andWildlife Service, World Wildlife Fund and Prins Bernhard Natuur Fonds!
Curious about the article? You can read it HERE
Last year, several students from Antwerp University did research on Lions in Meru NP, Kenya and Tigers in Chitwan NP, India. Those researched were supported by Leo Foundation, and hereby we would like to share the results by the below abstracts.
Stefanie Kelchtermans – Diet study of the tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, with specific focus on the buffer zone and the surrounding areas, in relation with human-wildlife conflicts.
Habitat destruction, prey depletion and human-carnivore conflicts are all important factors contributing to the decline of large carnivores. This study intents to analyze the diet of the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, by identifying 47 prey items from 43 tiger scats. The diet of the tiger was compared between three zones under different management including core area (CA), buffer zone (BZ) and corridor forest (CO). The majority of scats were found in the CA (73.07%). Tigers in CNP fed upon eight different mammal species. Chital (Axis axis) was the major prey with a frequency of 57.45% of the tigers’ diet, followed by wild boar (17.02%) (Sus scrofa). No livestock was consumed by tigers in CNP during this study. A diet comparison of tiger and leopard (Panthera pardus fusca), revealed that the diet of leopards consisted of a larger portion of livestock (10%) compared to tigers (0%). This study also focused on the impact of human-tiger conflicts during the last five years in Chitwan National Park, Nepal. The questionnaire-survey indicated that the western section of the buffer zone experienced more livestock depredation, of which tigers are mainly responsible for losses. The majority of attacks occurred during the night (100%), mainly during winter (63.64%). The likelihood of depredation on livestock decreased with increasing distance from the park boundary and, light/fire significantly influenced tiger depredation. The use of protection measures (shepard dog, noise, protection enclosure) appeared not to be significantly influencing the number of attacks. Notable it that regardless of the educational level of local respondents, 93.33% have a positive perception towards large carnivore conservation. To conclude, conflict mitigating measures should prioritize the corridor forest and buffer zone over core area to reduce the economic loss, inflicted by livestock depredation. The conservation actions on the long term can only be effective if enforcement of regulations is combined with education and the active involvement of local communities.
Gert-Jan Goeminne – Movements and home ranges of translocated and resident lions (Panthera leo melanochaita) in relation to the translocation potential in Meru National Park, Kenya.
The number of human-wildlife conflicts has steadily increased in recent years, due to habitat loss and growing human populations. Translocation of problem animals has often been suggested as a possible solution, because of its non-lethal character and relative cost-efficiency. The location of release and pre-release handling (soft vs. hard release) are considered to be the most important factors for translocations to be successful. In this thesis, differences in behaviour between resident lions and translocated lions were examined for Meru National Park (MNP) in Kenya, a park regularly used by Kenyan Wildlife Services (KWS) as a translocation site for problem lions. Additionally, an ecological translocation suitability analysis for lion translocations was performed. Both the movements and home ranges of resident and translocated lions were compared, based on the data of five satellite collared lions. For the home ranges both the home range size and the time of establishment were compared. The ecological suitability analysis was performed using different ecological variables to quantify the ecological suitability of different areas in the park. The weight of each variable was adapted from literature and later optimized with Bayesian statistics. Home ranges and movements differed strongly between resident and translocated lions with the exception of one translocated male, which showed similar behaviour to resident lions.This male was observed to have joined a local resident pride. The two other problem lions showed large movements outside the park and both died within a few months. The developed method for the optimization of the ecological suitability analysis seemed to be useful and could be a possible tool to determine the translocation potential of a park. However, to give more reliable results, a more extensive data set would be needed, in order to improve the outcome of the method for the future.
Kennedy Kakiri – Ecology and conservation of the African Lion (Panthera leo) in and around Meru National Park, Kenya
My research project covered a study on lion population size, pride structure, reproductive success, foraging success, distribution and factors influencing human-lion interactions in the MNP. Data on lion presence were collected during transect counts and through direct opportunistic searches and observations, while data on human-lion interactions were collected through a questionnaire survey that was administered in nine villages (sub-locations) around the park. Results show a lion density of 6.8 lions/km2 and an estimated lion population size of 31 individuals. I identified four lion prides in the park. The pride structure seems to be influenced by prey availability and seasonal fluctuations of water and prey in and around the MNP. Attitudes towards carnivores are predominantly influenced by livestock ownership and level of education. Livestock husbandry practices, particularly the height of the boma fence and the type of livestock enclosure (boma) also influence livestock loss and mortality.
The questionnaire survey showed that human-lion conflicts mainly occur near the north-eastern boundary of the MCA, which is unfenced. The frequency of reported lion conflict incidences in the area peaks around August which is also the driest month of the year in the MCA and the month with the least number of lion observation sightings inside the park. Livestock raiding behaviour therefore seems to be mainly influenced by lion distribution in and around the park, the presence of livestock and livestock husbandry practices such as the type and height of the boma fence as well as the influence of seasonality. Other livestock husbandry practices (such as the use of flashlights, adult herders/guards and guard dogs) also reduce livestock depredation, although habituation to flashlights reduces the effectiveness of the flashlights and the Muslim pastoralists in the area (who also own the majority of livestock lost to carnivores) do not use guard dogs due to religious beliefs.
Mateo Bal – Lion (Panthera leo melanochaita) diet in relation to prey preference and density in Meru National Park, Kenya
The African lion (Panthera leo) plays a key role in savannah ecosystems by directly and indirectly regulating trophic structure. Their foraging behavior has frequently been described as opportunistic, but often reveals a distinct preference for certain prey species that are energetically more profitable. This research project focussed on the population structure and diet of lions in Kenya’s Meru National Park. Data were collected from February until April 2019 and contribute to the PhD research of MSc Luka Narisha. A total of 28 lions were identified during fieldwork, indicating a lion density of 2.2 adult lions per 100 km2. Transect counts of potential prey species in the park revealed that Kirk’s dik-dik (Madoqua kirkii) had the highest relative abundance of all prey species (50.89%), while African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) contributed the most to the total prey biomass (33.94%). Based on carcass counts and microscopic prey hair analysis from lion scats, African buffalo and plains zebra were found to be the principal prey species of the lions in Meru National Park. Few hairs of livestock were found in the lion scats, which indicates a low level of livestock raiding. Prey preference analysis using Jacobs’ Index showed that lions had a high prey preference for African buffalo and plains zebra, but Grevy’s zebra appeared to be the most preferred prey species. Lions did not seem to have a significant preference or avoidance for selected prey body mass ranges. Overall, results from this study indicate that Meru National Park hosts a healthy lion population in a relatively undisturbed ecosystem, but further research is needed to eliminate remaining uncertainties and monitor the prey and lion populations in view of climate change.
Amy montagne – Investigating the decline of the African lion population in Lake Nakuru National Park using diet analysis
During the last decades the global African lion (Panthera leo, L. 1758) population has decreased rapidly. In Lake Nakuru National Park (LNNP) in Kenya this decline has also been observed. One of the possible reasons of this decline is the increasing African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) population in LNNP. Large herds can cause danger for lions in hunting attempts and result in deaths. The pressure of the African buffaloes can result in prey switching towards smaller prey species and species such as reptiles, birds and very small mammals (<5kg). Hence, by investigating the foraging behaviour and predator-prey interactions of the lions in LNNP it can be possible to get insight into factors that are causing the decrease of these lions. This study assessed the foraging behaviour in LNNP, with the use of three different methods of diet analysis: carcass counts, hair morphology analysis and DNA analysis. This study especially focusses on the effect of the large population of the African buffalo in LNNP. Does the diet of the African lion in LNNP indeed reflect an avoidance of the African buffalo compared to the lions in the nearby wildlife conservancy (Soysambu Conservancy, SC)? Furthermore, this study investigates whether this possible pressure results in prey switching. This study showed that the current lion population in LNNP is still in decline (with a decrease from approximately 20 to 9 lions in two years) and that the African buffalo is one of the drivers for this decline. This study confirmed that there is a high avoidance for African buffalo by lions in LNNP, while this is not observed with the lions from SC. The general diet in LNNP and SC were very different. Lions in LNNP consumed a larger amount of species under 100kg, as the preferred weight is around 350kg, this can indicate a possible prey switch towards smaller prey. DNA analysis showed that slightly more non-mammalian prey species and very small mammals were eaten in LNNP than in SC, of which most were positive for reptiles. These results imply that park management should reduce the number of African buffaloes in LNNP to counter the decline of lions in LNNP.
In the context of the yearly Globe Guard auction, the Leo Foundation offers an unique experience: the banding of northern goshawks at the Hoge Veluwe. Three sponsors contributed to one of our projects, on conservation of leopards and fishing cats in Nepal, and to thank them for this generous contribution, together with board member Laura Bertola, they were able to join ornithologists Ralph Buij and Peter van Geneijgen for a day.
After a short coffee break, we set out towards the first nest. This was located about 20 metres above the ground. In order to reach the goshawk chicks, one of the researchers has to climb the tree. After approaching the nest, the chicks are place in a canvas bags, which then are lowered to the forest floor. The chicks calmly accept the entire ordeal.During the banding, a number of different measurements are taken, including weight and wing length. These measurements allow us to calculate their age and physical condition. Finally, the chicks get a small band with a unique code. If this code is retrieved, from a dead or living bird, it allows the researchers to monitor how far the goshawks have dispersed from their nest, the average survival and the cause of death.
After all is finished, the chicks are placed in their canvas bags again and travel back up to the nest. On this day, four nests were visited and all chicks were banded. The population of northern goshawks in the southwestern area of the Veluwe is 27-30 individuals, but the number of breeding pairs varies yearly. Thanks to this monitoring program, we obtain better insights in to the status of this population. And thanks to the contribution of the sponsors, also the research on leopards and fishing cats in Nepal is moving forward.
Read more about our bio-social study to tigers in India. In this study we answer questions in how tigers survive in urban environments and how local people are coping with the presence of these large cats.
Chair of Leo Foundation, Hans de Iongh was in Kenya between 15 to 24 february 2020 for a mission to collar three lions. One male (Loek Lotir) and one female (Seffie) were collared in lake Nakuru NP and one female (Betty) was collared in Soysambu Conservancy.
This mission was a collaboration between Leo foundation, Monica Chege of KWS, the KWS veterinary service and Soysambu Conservancy. The collaring was done as part of an ongoing research programme coordinated by Monica Chege and the satellite collars will be used by the Management of Lake Nakuru NP and Soysambu Conservancy with the aim to reduce and mitigate lion-livestock conflicts. In the past lions escaped from lake Nakuru NP into adjacent Soysambu Conservancy. We used three Africa Willdife Tracking (AWT) Irridium satellite collars, with VHF transmitters. Because of this type of collars, the movements of the lions can be tracked on the AWT website, and if needed, direct action can be taken.
The collaring of the adult female Betty in the Soysambu Conservancy was particularly important, since she is part of a group of the last 4 lions this place. A year ago, there were still 16 lions in the Soysambu Conservancy, but due to retaliatory killings by livestock owners and the dispersal of some lions to other areas (to Hells Gate), only these 4 lions are left. (Betty, two subadult cubs and a smaller cub). The satellite collar on Betty is considered a life line for these lions and hopefully will prevent conflict situations with livestock owners. We are currently applying this way of ‘geofencing’ as an early warning system when the lions approach livestock boma’s.
In Lake Nakuru NP some 12 lions are left. In the past lions from Nakuru NP moved to Soysambu Conservancy through holes in the chainlink fence, but due to improvements in the fence this has become more difficult. KWS, Soysambu conservancy and Leo foundation intend to monitor the movements of these lions in the coming month and initiate the early warning system with ‘geofencing’ when lions enter livestock areas or escape from lake Nakuru NP as well.
Chair of the Leo foundation Hans de Iongh met on the 23th of Februari with dr Tuqa Jirmo (the assistant CEO of Lewa Borena conservancy). Dr. Tuqa Jirmo received support during 2007-2012 from the Leo foundation for a monitoring and conflict prevention program for lion populations in Amboseli under a PhD research program at Leiden university.
Now they discussed the possibilities for monitoring lion and spotted hyena populations in Lewa Borena. These data can be directly used for conflict prevention/ mitigation with local communities.
We are happy to share that it was agreed to initiate a new collaboration between the Lewa Borena conservancy and Leo foundation.
Last year, several students of Leiden University traveled to different National Parks in Kenya to do their internships for their Master degree. Here, they studied different aspects of lion ecology. All those studies have been supported through Leo Foundation. Now, since everybody is back and all reports are written we could like to share you some of the results though the abstracts below.
Josine Meijer – The effect of human disturbance on lion movement patterns and home ranges in and around Nairobi National Park, Kenya
The lion (Panthera leo, L. 1785) population worldwide has been on the decline for decades, with the leading causes being habitat destruction, prey depletion and human-lion conflicts. Contrastingly, research that studied the effect of habitat destruction on lion movement are scarce. In this study I investigated the effect of habitat destruction on lion movement patterns, to gain a better understanding of human disturbance on lions. In 2017 and 2018, the Kenyan government built a railway bridge that cut straight through Nairobi National Park. Using GPS data from collared lions and using geospatial analysis, I investigated if the railway bridge or construction thereof has had an effect on the lions’ movements and home range. Construction works had a significant effect on the lions movement. The lions tend to keep a further distance from the bridge during constructions and were found outside of the park more often. Furthermore, potential minimum distance moved per 24 hours and home range sizes decreased substantially during and after construction of the bridge. No restoration of the movement patterns was found. The railway is expected to be in full operation in 2019. This study concludes that the construction of the bridge seems to have had an impact on the lion population in Nairobi NP. However no conclusions can be drawn for long term impacts of the presence of the bridge. Further research is needed to determine if lions are also impacted by the presence of the bridge when it is in use.
Megan Verhagen – The influence of prey species abundance on prey selection and diet composition of Panthera leo in Kenya: a DNA-analysis.
The African lion is under increasing pressure and has faced dramatic population declines in the past 21 years which are expected to continue. To preserve the African lion it is suggested that in the near future only fenced protected intensively managed areas may save lion populations. However,
conservation success of management practices is dependent upon many different factors which all may contribute to or counteract the success of conservation efforts. One of these factors is diet composition. The diet composition of lions provides insights in predator-prey dynamics and lion
population demographics. The optimal foraging theory predicts that predator diet composition will vary along with the abundance variations of the prey species. Since lions are opportunistic predators, it is expected that prey species abundance influences their diet composition. However, in small reserves with unnatural ungulate assemblages, the connection between prey species abundance and diet composition are not as distinct. Consequently, for the purpose of conservation management, especially in in enclosed protected areas, it is essential to gain a better understanding of the influence of prey species abundance on prey selection by lions. A diet analysis is proposed for which the traditional methods of hair analysis and opportunistic observations are used in combination with a DNA-analysis through NGS. This study will be carried out in 4 different national parks in Kenya which were selected for their differing management strategies.
Sam Boerlijst – Genotyping the lion, The usability of microsatellite genotyping of faecal samples
- Biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate. Adequate conservation is needed in order to mitigate damage to ecosystem stability and functioning. Even more so due to the increasing pressure of climate change, habitat fragmentation and overexploitation.
- Protected areas have been established worldwide as a tool for conservation of biodiversity. However, conservation of wide-ranging carnivores in particular remains a challenge. Due to the pressure of habitat loss, prey base depletion and increasingly dense inhabited buffer zones of national parks, human-wildlife conflicts have dramatically increased. This has led to a severe decrease of the African lion (Panthera leo, see Kitchener et al L. 1758) populations.
- Recent research has demonstrated that in fenced parks lion populations may have a higher chance to survive by limiting prey dispersal and human-wildlife conflicts.
- The effectiveness of enclosing reserves can be studied via dietary analysis. However, traditional methods are prone to oversampling of a few individuals, which may lead to biased results, thereby revealing individual dietary changes instead of those of the species.
- This study aims to provide a method to assess individual diet via molecular identification of scat samples in Nakuru National Park and Soysambu Conservancy using microsatellite variant calling from capillary electrophoresis or next generation sequencing data.
- Insight in the usability of microsatellite analysis for faecal samples can be used to more accurately determine population size and individual diet, which may help to determine the effectiveness of fenced reserves in regards to livestock predation.