Coexistence of African lions, livestock, and people in a landscape with variable human land use and seasonal movements

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Apex carnivores around the world have experienced rapid population declines and local extirpation due to anthropogenic pressures, and they are increasingly restricted to government-protected areas (GPAs). Though GPAs are critical for carnivore conservation, mixed-use landscapes may be crucial for sustaining viable populations. Few studies, particularly in Africa, have examined joint use of a landscape by people and conflict-prone carnivores, such as the African lion (Panthera leo), in a situation where conflict is low. In southern Kenya, we studied a lion population in an unfenced rangeland occupied by the Maasai people and their livestock. The Maasai shift their settlements and grazing areas seasonally across a permanent river, a practice we hypothesized might promote coexistence. We radio-collared lions (n = 6) to determine density and document spatial patterns in response to seasonal movements of people in a Conservation Area and buffer zone (250 km2). Despite high livestock density, lion density was comparable to many GPAs (0.136 individuals/km2). Lion spatial distribution and habitat selection shifted in relation to seasonal movements of people and livestock. Conflict was low, likely because lions increased their use of the Conservation Area and dense habitats when people were nearby. Lion responses to human movements reduced access to permanent water, but not prey. A land use system based on temporary settlements and grazing areas allowed lions to co-occur with people and livestock at high density. These results suggest a general strategy for the conservation of apex carnivores outside of GPAs, focusing on areas that exhibit spatiotemporal variation in human land use.




Schuette P, Creel S & Christianson D 2013. Coexistence of African lions, livestock, and people in a landscape with variable human land use and seasonal movements. Biological Conservation 157: 148-154.
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