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Keywords:

  • Central place foraging;
  • coloniality;
  • habitat selection;
  • hyrax;
  • optimal patch use;
  • predatory risk

Models of central place foraging predict that animals should forage more thoroughly in resource patches located closer to the central place. Travel time, cost of transporting food back to the central place, and exposure to predators should all act to increase foraging costs with increasing distance from the refuge. We examined habitat and patch use in rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis) inhabiting a group of kopjes in a semiarid savanna, Augrabies Falls National Park, South Africa. We tested the prediction of more intense patch use closer to the central place by measuring giving-up densities (GUDs) in experimental resource patches set at four different distances from the kopje and in two microhabitats differing in cover. Surprisingly, hyraxes had their lowest GUDs at intermediate distances from the kopje. These unexpected results suggest that the sentinel behaviour of hyraxes alters the probability of detection of predators for animals foraging away from the kopje.