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Title: Demography and ranging behaviour of lions (Panthera leo) within a human-occupied landscape in northern Kenya
Author: Bhalla, Shivani
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 8075
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Lion populations across Kenya are threatened, primarily as a result of habitat loss and human persecution in response to livestock depredation. This study provides the first population insights into lions within the Samburu-Isiolo ecosystem; considering both the protected area network and the surrounding human-occupied landscape. These results are particularly pertinent given Kenya's low lion population. The demography of the lion population in the Samburu-Isiolo ecosystem was studied to provide data on the area's basic lion population structure. Due to the small size of the protected areas within the study area, it was expected that lions would frequently move outside the Reserves into the human-occupied landscapes that surround the protected areas and, therefore, their ranging behaviour was also assessed. Community Conservancies exist around the protected areas, where wildlife conservation is encouraged. However, the increasing human and livestock populations within these areas conflicts intensely with the spatial requirement of lions. This has numerous implications; from direct mortality to reducing the opportunities for immigration of new lions into the protected areas, or safe dispersal from them. Therefore, the presence of suitable habitat in one community area adjacent to the protected areas was examined using a Habitat Suitability Model (HSM) in order to explore these issues. The demography of the lions within the study area was found to be comparable to other populations across Africa, although displayed higher sex ratios, and lower cub dispersal figures. Whilst the ranging behaviour of the prides displayed core ranges along the rivers, it was noted that they each had their distinct areas of intensive use. Male ranges were larger than females and shrunk during the drought in 2009 and expanded again in 2010. Despite displaying ranges within the limits of the protected areas, it is known that between 2008 and 2010, 10 lions disappeared and moved outside the protected areas. The HSM showed that highly suitable habitat did exist within the Community Conservancy, highlighting the presence of safe refuges for carnivores, with more suitable habitat found to be available at night compared to during the day. Despite the presence of highly suitable habitat, human-lion conflict was a common occurrence in these areas. Anthropogenic factors will have an impact on the demography of lion populations, whether they exist inside or outside protected areas. If suitable habitat did not exist within the human-occupied landscape, it is expected that there would be reduced immigration of new males, longer pride tenures within protected areas and the potential risk of inbreeding. Conflict mitigation measures are important in reducing human-lion conflict, however, this study also recommends the presence of safe refuges in the form of Conservation Areas within the Community Conservancy network in northern Kenya. The model of Conservation Areas acting as safe refuges is essential for the conservation of lions outside protected areas throughout remaining parts of their range in northern Kenya.
Supervisor: Vollrath, Fritz Sponsor: Wildlife Conservation Network ; African Wildlife Foundation ; Panthera Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available