Interactions between apex and mesopredators and their impacts on prey populations have been well documented, while the influence of apex predators such as lions on carrion availability and the subsequent impacts at lower trophic levels are not fully understood. Here we assess dietary overlap between two sympatric carnivores (brown hyaena, Parahyaena brunnea, and black-backed jackal, Canis mesomelas) in neighbouring reserves with and without apex predators (lions, Panthera leo, and wild dog, Lycaon pictus). We investigate whether apex predators facilitate niche partitioning between mesocarnivores by creating additional scavenging opportunities through predatory activity. We found that brown hyaena density was higher in the area with apex predators, while black-backed jackal density was higher in the area without apex predators. Black-backed jackal scats contained broadly similar dietary items at both sites, while large mammal remains occurred significantly more frequently in brown hyaena scats collected in the presence of apex predators. In the absence of apex predators there was a markedly higher degree of overlap between brown hyaena and jackal diets, suggesting increased levels of inter-specific competition. Our results suggest that apex predators potentially reduce levels of inter-specific competition for food between mesocarnivores by providing additional scavenging opportunities for specialist scavengers such as brown hyaena.
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