HUMAN AND LANDSCAPE FACTORS INFLUENCING LION MORTALITIES IN THE MAASAI STEPPE ECOSYSTEM, NORTHERN TANZANIA
The demography of the African lion is increasingly shaped by interactions with humans. Habitat fragmentation and persecution by humans are both linked to the decline in lions in most of their historical ranges such that current populations are largely restricted to isolated protected areas. This study examined the spatial and temporal patterns of lion killings in the Maasai steppe ecosystem. We used eighty-two lion mortality records for the last 13 years (2005 - 2017). Distances from the roads, river, lake, settlements, and the Normalized difference vegetation index value extracted for each lion killing location were the key landscape variables used to map the lion anthropogenic mortalities. There was a significant difference (p<0.05) between female and male lions killed from 127 mortality records. The anthropogenic retaliatory killing caused 77.9% of female and 22.1% of male mortalities. About 58% of the lions killed were adults, 39.1% were sub-adults and only 2.9% were cubs. The majority of lion killings incidences took place during the wet season around the Maasai homestead. The lion killings incidences were rampant in the eastern side but slightly clustered in the northern part. Vegetation cover in the actual lion killings areas influenced lion killings incidences. Distances from the public roads, rivers, and human settlements significantly (p<0.05) contributed to lion anthropogenic mortalities. It is anticipated that retaliatory killings of lions could intensify due to growing cattle herds in the ecosystem. To promote coexistence between humans and lions, conservation authorities should invest more in awareness and sensitization programs on the conservation of lions.
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