Context. The spatio-temporal partitioning of large carnivores is influenced by interspecific competition and coexistence within small, enclosed reserves. Lions (Panthera leo), spotted hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta) and leopards (Panthera pardus) are the three largest African carnivores and have the greatest potential for intra-guild competition, particularly where space is limited.
Aim. To investigate the spatio-temporal partitioning between lions, spotted hyaenas and leopards in a small (~75 000 ha), enclosed nature reserve, Madikwe Game Reserve (Madikwe), South Africa.
Methods. We deployed 110 camera traps (baited n = 55 and unbaited n = 55) across Madikwe from 26 August 2019 until 6 May 2020. Von Mises kernel density plots were used to investigate daily temporal partitioning among the three species. A multiple-species, single-season occupancy model was used to investigate daily space use patterns.
Key results. We found both temporal and spatial exclusion between lions and spotted hyaenas on Madikwe. However, no evidence was found of spatio-temporal partitioning between lions and leopards, and spotted hyaenas and leopards.
Conclusions. Exploitative and interference competition on Madikwe might be high enough to warrant spatio-temporal partitioning between lions and spotted hyaenas to avoid the negative effects of intra-guild competition. Contrastingly, patterns observed between leopards and both lions and spotted hyaenas preclude the possibility of top-down control by superior carnivores.
Implication. These findings call for an adaptive management approach, where both carnivore and prey species compositions are constantly monitored. Management strategies such as these will allow for the conservation of valuable resources (i.e. prey species) to ensure the persistence of large carnivore populations across African ecosystems.