Spatial and temporal changes in group dynamics and range use enable anti-predator responses in African buffalo

Authors

  • Craig J. Tambling,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Department of Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth 6031 South Africa
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  • Dave J. Druce,

    1. Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Department of Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth 6031 South Africa
    2.  Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, P.O. Box 515, Hluhluwe 3960 South Africa
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  • Matt W. Hayward,

    1. Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Department of Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth 6031 South Africa
    2. Australian Wildlife Conservancy, P.O. Box 432, Nichol's Point, Victoria 3501 Australia
    3. University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052 Australia
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  • J. Guy Castley,

    1. South African National Parks, Conservation Services, Port Elizabeth 6031 South Africa
    2.  International Centre for Ecotourism Research, Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland 4222 Australia
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  • John Adendorff,

    1. South African National Parks, Conservation Services, Port Elizabeth 6031 South Africa
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  • Graham I. H. Kerley

    1. Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Department of Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth 6031 South Africa
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  • Corresponding Editor: H. U. Wittmer.

Abstract

The reintroduction of large predators provides a framework to investigate responses by prey species to predators. Considerable research has been directed at the impact that reintroduced wolves (Canis lupus) have on cervids, and to a lesser degree, bovids, in northern temperate regions. Generally, these impacts alter feeding, activity, and ranging behavior, or combinations of these. However, there are few studies on the response of African bovids to reintroduced predators, and thus, there is limited data to compare responses by tropical and temperate ungulates to predator reintroductions. Using the reintroduction of lion (Panthera leo) into the Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) Main Camp Section, South Africa, we show that Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) responses differ from northern temperate ungulates. Following lion reintroduction, buffalo herds amalgamated into larger, more defendable units; this corresponded with an increase in the survival of juvenile buffalo. Current habitat preference of buffalo breeding herds is for open habitats, especially during the night and morning, when lion are active. The increase in group size and habitat preference countered initial high levels of predation on juvenile buffalo, resulting in a return in the proportion of juveniles in breeding herds to pre-lion levels. Our results show that buffalo responses to reintroduced large predators in southern Africa differ to those of northern temperate bovids or cervids in the face of wolf predation. We predict that the nature of the prey response to predator reintroduction is likely to reflect the trade-off between the predator selection and hunting strategy of predators against the life history and foraging strategies of each prey species.

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