Population demography and spatial ecology of a reintroduced lion population in the Greater Makalali Conservancy, South Africa

Druce, D.; Genis, H.; Braak, J.; Greatwood, S.; Delsink, A.; Kettles, R.; Hunter, L.; Slotow, R.

Koedoe 47(1): 103-118


ISSN/ISBN: 0075-6458
Document Number: 282902
Many recently established small game reserves in southern Africa have introduced lion, and have had to actively manage their populations as the lion are in relatively small (1000 km2), enclosed areas. This study was undertaken on the Greater Makalali Conservancy (140 km2), Limpopo Province, South Africa to describe population demography and lion movement patterns in order to enhance management decisions. A pride of five lion were introduced to Makalali in December 1994 and since then 35 cubs have been born (11.6 % population growth per year over 7.5 years), 31 of which have been translocated to other reserves. To increase genetic diversity, the two male coalition was removed in May 1999 and another two males introduced during July 1999. During the study, the reserve area was increased by approximately 23 %. Although the Makalali lion utilised a smaller home range during winter (75.3 km2) than summer (106.8 km2), this difference was not significant. The core ranges also shifted between seasons, with 46 % of the summer core being utilised during winter. When the new males were introduced, they centred their core range near their release boma. The females also shifted their core range to this region after their young male cubs were moved into the boma. After the Makalali area was increased, the lion increased their home range area, while their core range became reduced and more dispersed. There was no significant difference in the distances the lion moved in a 24 hour period between the two seasons, or before and after the two management actions. The Makalali lion also spent more time than expected in low open woodland and grassland habitats and less than expected in low thickets. We conclude that lion populations can successfully exist within small reserves (100 km2) and that actions to manage the population can be successful if certain criteria are considered.

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