Diet determination of the Cape Mountain leopards using global positioning system location clusters and scat analysis

Authors


  • Editor: Andrew Kitchener

Correspondence
Quinton Martins, The Cape Leopard Trust, PO Box 1118, Sun Valley, Cape Town, South Africa 7985. Tel: +27 73 241 4513
Email: quinton@capeleopard.org.za

Abstract

Studying leopards Panthera pardus in mountainous regions is challenging and there is little ecological information on their behaviour in these habitats. We used data from global positioning system (GPS) radio-collared leopards in conjunction with leopard scat analysis to identify key aspects of leopard feeding habits in the Cederberg Mountains of South Africa. We located 53 leopard kill/feeding sites from clustered GPS locations of ≥4 h and analysed 93 leopard scats. Both methods showed that klipspringers Oreotragus oreotragus and rock hyraxes Procavia capensis were the most common prey. GPS location clusters showed that the time leopards spent at a given location was positively related both to the probability of detecting prey remains and to prey size. Leopards made significantly more large kills in winter than summer (P=0.003); there was no significant difference between male and female leopards in the average number of large kills or the average time spent at large kill sites. We show that, when studying large carnivores in inaccessible areas, it is important to use a combination of techniques to understand their feeding ecology and that GPS locations can be used to provide an accurate measure of diet even when small prey are being taken.

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