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Title: The intraguild interactions of large carnivores and their impacts on their prey and other smaller carnivores in the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area, Lao PDR
Author: Rasphone, Akchousanh
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 2778
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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In an environment, the species populations are not only affected by the abiotic factors but also by the interactions between the organisms. In contexts where human-induced habitat loss and anthropogenic disturbances are prominent, inter-specific interaction will undoubtedly increase, at least initially, as wild animals are confined to smaller areas with greater resource limitations. In light of this, a key question of conservation concern emerges: what mechanisms do subordinate predators adopt in order to persist alongside dominant predators when space and prey resources are limited? This thesis, therefore, aimed to investigate interactions of sympatric carnivores (felids and dhole) in the Nam Et - Phou Louey National Protected Area (hereafter NEPL) in northern Lao PDR. The NEPL harbours six felid species (tiger Panther tigris, leopard Panthera pardus, clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa, Asian golden cat Catopuma temminckii, marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata, and leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis) and dhole Cuon alpinus. Over the past decade, the main threat to the flora and fauna of the NEPL has been the unregulated over-harvesting of animals and plants and forest clearance. This study not only will contribute to our scientific knowledge of NEPL's carnivore species, the findings will also benefit conservation efforts via providing much-needed information regarding their ecology and status to guide decision making. First, I investigated the status of all hypercarnivores and prey species of NEPL (Chapter 2). My results showed that tiger and leopard had been extirpated, most likely due to the rise of indiscriminate snaring. Consequently, clouded leopard and dhole, the largest and most common remaining hypercarnivores. Large ungulate prey species (e.g., gaur Bos gaurus and sambar Cervus unicolor) were rare, whereas smaller ungulate species were relatively common. Overall, NEPL still had rich communities of carnivores and prey. Second, I estimated density trends of clouded leopard, leopard cat, and marbled cat, to better understand what likely happens to smaller felids when the top felid, tiger, disappears from the system (Chapter 3). The findings showed a declining trend in density across the study years for all three felid species, with a stronger rate of decline for clouded leopard and leopard cat. Snaring likely was responsible for the continuing decline of the smaller felids, and this factor was likely to override any potential effects of mesopredator release on their densities and interactions. Third, I assessed spatial and temporal niche segregation, to understand factors facilitating coexistence of all sympatric hypercarnivores (Chapter 4). Dhole and clouded leopard did not have high spatial and temporal avoidance, but presumably had some differences in dietary niches. Asian golden cat adopted a cathemeral activity pattern and is likely to have diet specialisation to co-occur with dhole and clouded leopard. The leopard cat and marbled cat are likely to coexist with the Asian golden cat via prey specialisation whereas leopard cat and marbled cat clearly segregated temporally and potentially by diet. Fourth, I predicted the distribution of suitable habitat across the country for the three largest remaining hypercarnivores: dhole, clouded leopard, and Asian golden cat (Chapter 5). My results highlighted the importance of the National Protection Forest Areas for the conservation of carnivores in the country, especially in the northern provinces and along the central Annamite landscape. Overall, my findings contributed to the knowledge of the ecology and interactions of a diverse carnivore community in northern Laos, and results will be used to guide management plans and conservation efforts for carnivores and their prey within NEPL and other landscapes throughout the country.
Supervisor: Macdonald, David Sponsor: National Geographic Society
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Intraguild interactions