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Leopard population dynamics, trophy hunting\ud and conservation in the Soutpansberg Mountains,\ud South Africa

By NATASHA JULIA CHASE-GREY

Abstract

This thesis represents a highly novel attempt to combine capture-recapture camera trapping, GPS telemetry and dietary analysis with anthropological techniques such as participant observation and semi-structured interviews in order to investigate leopard population density and dynamics, human-leopard conflict and the potential and effectiveness of trophy hunting as a conservation tool for leopards in the Soutpansberg Mountains, Limpopo Province, South Africa. \ud \ud Results from camera trapping data show that the Soutpansberg is home to a very high density of leopards (20 per 100km2). This is supported by the small home range of an adult female measured during the study (13.9 km2 95% MCP) suggesting the Soutpansberg is a prey rich area with prey densities high enough to allow leopards to live in large numbers and hold small home ranges. The dispersal movements of a collared sub-adult male indicate that the Soutpansberg may be acting as a population source for sinks beneath the mountains. High levels of human-wildlife conflict exist between leopards and landowners and leopards are frequently persecuted for perceived livestock predation although no evidence of livestock was found in leopard scats. \ud \ud Trophy hunting does not currently work as an effective conservation tool for leopards by providing economic incentives for landowners to reduce illegal hunting and tolerate the wider leopard population. Quotas are not based on accurate population figures of leopards from field studies, females are allowed in hunting off-take and only game farmers that own hunting farms apply for trophy hunting permits. Landowners responsible for the majority of leopard mortalities (cattle and community farmers) do not conduct trophy hunting due to their distrust of the complex and bureaucratic application process. The sustainability of trophy hunting must be improved by basing off-take on accurate population numbers, monitoring harvested populations, encouraging a wider uptake of commercial hunting and reducing illegal harvests. \u

Topics: leopard, conservation, camera trapping, trophy hunting, South Africa, ecology, wildife, home range
Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.dur.ac.uk:823
Provided by: Durham e-Theses

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