Prey selection by a reintroduced lion population in the Greater Makalali Conservancy, South Africa
Lion prey selection was studied on the Greater Makalali Conservancy (140 km2), Limpopo Province, South Africa, in order to assist with management strategies. Monitoring was carried out between February 1998 and December 2001. Lion killed 15 species, with warthog, blue wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, kudu and waterbuck constituting approximately 75% of their diet. Between 2.2% and 3.1% of the available prey biomass was killed yearly, while each female equivalent unit (FEQ) killed between 3 kg and 3.2 kg daily. Lion predation was greater for warthog, wildebeest and waterbuck and less for impala than expected. When male lion were present, a greater number of warthog and giraffe were killed, while number of females had a significant effect on medium sized prey species and total prey species killed. Significantly more warthog, wildebeest and kudu were killed in winter than summer. More prey than expected was killed in open habitats and less than expected in thickets. Managers of small, enclosed reserves need to constantly monitor prey populations, especially medium sized prey and may be able to reduce predation on large prey species by manipulating male lion numbers. Reserves also need to contain adequate open habitats for lion to make use of these areas for hunting.
Key words: Panthera leo, predation, management strategies, biomass, female equivalent unit.