Research In A Thirstland WildernessDonate Now

The Research

The main collection of data from lions will be via GPS/Satcom collars that transmit spatial information via the ARGOS satellite system. From this, home ranges and territories will be calculated seasonally and compared with parameters known to influence range and movement to see how CKGR lions respond to these factors. Collared animals will be habituated to a research vehicle and followed regularly to support the GPS data, and provide information on feeding and social habits. For statistical purposes, twenty animals will be collared, amounting to a male and a female in eight different prides, and four sub-adults, whose movements may reveal much about dispersal of young

A beautiful lioness

A beautiful lioness

With two clear seasons in the Kalahari, a wet and a dry, a natural division of sampling time is three sessions of data collection per season or six per year. Within each 2 month division a minimum of three 96 hour follows will be conducted on habituated collared lions.
Follow data will comprise of continuous behaviour notes allowing the typical allocation of time spent in various activities to be calculated, as well as numbers of successful hunts per attempted hunts, preferred species, preferred habitats, and amount of time spent socialising. Photographic data will be collected on all lions that come into contact with study animals with established whisker pattern identification techniques allowing a web of lion sociality to be constructed for the entire population within the study area. One theory we would like to test is whether problem animals tend to be a certain demographic, older or younger males with no accepted pride place, or a learned behaviour conducted mostly by related or associated individuals.
Transects of the prey availability will be conducted throughout the study area every two months accounting for all possible prey species, their movements seasonally, and rates of dispersion. An important factor in lions choosing their prey is accessibility, not just numerical superiority, and they follow the large herds taking advantage of the green flush in the valleys in the wet season. During the dry season, the same number of prey disperses in small groups, and the search patterns of the lions may be too energy intensive to continue to pursue oryx, springbok and wildebeest, and perhaps cattle congregating near cattle posts just outside the reserve offer an easier alternative. This hypothesis will be tested.

Collecting lion scats
Scats of followed animals will be collected opportunistically and hair and DNA analyses performed by a collaborative study involve a local Masters student. We will have the opportunity to compare the results with what the animal has been seen eating over the period studied, and comments can be made on further scats collected from other animals without following them. From this data we will have a clear picture of what lions are eating, which may include some animals that prey transects can overlook such as porcupines, bustards and occasionally other predators like hyaenas and jackals. Microsatellites of lion DNA are well-studied and lion DNA found in the scat samples will be from non-study animals in this way to fortify the social web and relationshipsData of significance to the general scientific community will be published in two peer reviewed articles, one of those expected within a year of the completion of the field work. The date for submission of thesis to the Australian National University match those of submission to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife of June, 2012, whereas presentation of information to park staff will form part of ongoing two-way communication throughout the project.The total field time for this study will be two full years in the field, commencing in June, 2009 and completing in June 2011. This amounts to twelve study periods of two months each, following the time scale recommended by the lion research specialist group in Loveridge et al (2002), and allowing for meaningful data to overcome nondemonic intrusion. Data will be presented in the Department of National Parks in entirety, and disseminated to park staff in a series of training sessions.