Spatial and temporal overlaps between leopards (Panthera pardus ) and their competitors in the African large predator guild

Rafiq, K. and Hayward, M. W. and Wilson, A. M. and Meloro, C. and Jordan, N. R. and Wich, S. A. and McNutt, J. W. and Golabek, K. A. (2020) Spatial and temporal overlaps between leopards (Panthera pardus ) and their competitors in the African large predator guild. Journal of Zoology. ISSN 09528369

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Abstract

Understanding the mechanisms facilitating coexistence within species assemblages is a key consideration for conservation as intact assemblages are necessary for maintaining full ecosystem function. The African large predator guild represents one of the few remaining functionally intact large predator assemblages on Earth, and as such, represents a unique study system to understand competitive interactions. Yet, relatively little is known of the coexistence mechanisms between some of its intermediately sized members, particularly leopards (Panthera pardus ). Here, we use overlapping spatio‐temporal activity and GPS data on lions (Panthera leo ), leopards, African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus ) and cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus ) to examine spatial interactions and temporal partitioning between leopards and other guild members in northern Botswana. We found that at the population level, male leopard space use and activity patterns were largely unaffected by intraguild competitors. Leopards showed minimal movement coherence with competitors (avoidance or attraction) when moving through areas of home ranges shared with intraguild species. Moreover, we found evidence to support the hypothesis that guild species’ activity patterns are primarily driven by light availability rather than predator avoidance. Our results suggest predator avoidance has a limited impact on broad‐scale leopard spatio‐temporal niches, with aspects of the leopards’ ecology and life history likely facilitating its ability to thrive in close proximity to competitors. Considered alongside other studies, our results suggest that landscape‐level approaches to conservation may be suitable for aiding leopard conservation.