Poster presentation 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Estimating leopard (Panthera pardus) density in miombo woodlands using spatially explicit capture-recapture (SCR) modelling (#644)

Robert Davis 1 2 , Louise Gentle 1 , Emma Stone 2 , Antonio Uzal 1 , Richard Yarnell 1
  1. Nottingham Trent University, Southwell, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom
  2. Conservation Research Africa, Lilongwe, Malawi

Whilst research into leopard (Panthera pardus) ranges and ecological requirements has been well documented in sub-Saharan Africa, large areas of the species' range lack robust scientific data and further study is needed to assess leopard populations in understudied habitats. Miombo woodlands have been identified as a habitat lacking empirical data. Furthermore, regional leopard populations are facing rising anthropogenic pressures, and therefore studies that investigate leopard habitat relationships in a context of elevated anthropogenic pressure are necessary to inform effective conservation management. This preliminary study aimed to provide the first robust leopard density estimates for miombo woodlands, in a habitat with increased anthropogenic disturbance, using spatially-explicit capture-recapture (SECR) techniques. The study was conducted in Kasungu National Park (KNP), Malawi. KNP is dominated by miombo woodland and subject to high levels of human encroachment and poaching that have severely depleted wildlife numbers. Leopard density in KNP was estimated at 3.43 (± se 1.14) adults per 100 km² from 1292 trap nights. Results from this preliminary study challenge previous assumptions that dense miombo woodlands are a highly suitable habitat for leopard and this could have implications for the effective management of the species across large portions of its range. Further research, with a higher survey effort across a wider area, is currently being carried out to understand the basic ecological requirements of leopards in this habitat and, in a wider context, their ability to adapt to large scale anthropogenic disturbance.