The demography and population status of lions (Panthera leo) in the Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

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Monks, Norman John
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University of the Free State
English: Demographics of the lion population in the Mana Pools National Park were studied between 2001 and 2007. No detailed work had previously been carried out on this subject in the park. Demographic data was obtained from six prides, with two prides (Chitake and Jesse) being on the Zambezi Valley floor at the base of the Zambezi Escarpment in the south, and four prides on the Zambezi floodplain in the north. The Zambezi floodplain in the Mana Pools National Park is 95.5 km² in extent and in area comprises 11.2% of the park. Approximately 46% of the adult lion population occurs on the floodplain where approximately 63% of the lion prey base in the park is found. Not all prides could be studied at the same intensity, however, demographic data was obtained for all six prides. The Nyamepi pride on the floodplain was the most intensely studied. A population estimate of 67 adult and sub-adult lions was made for the Mana Pools National Park. Overall density throughout the park was 3.05 lions/100 km². Density ranged from 0.65/100 km² in the escarpment which held 0.3% of the prey species taken by lions to 12.7/100 km² on the floodplain. There were 1.8 adult males to 3.3 adult females and all prides were attended by a male. Mean group size (adults and sub-adults) was 7.8 (range 5-11). The adult and sub-adult age class made up 70.7% of the population and large and small cubs made up 29.3% of the population. Cub survival to one year of age was 66.7%. Females produced their first litter between 43-53 months of age and cohorts of cubs were produced on average every 38.5 months. Pride males had an average tenure with the pride of 33.25 months and sub-adult males dispersed from the pride between 36-57 months with a mean of 39.8 months. Home ranges varied on the floodplain from 28.1 km² to 278 km² and from 50.2 km² to 379.3 km² on the valley floor. The floodplain Nyamepi pride males had a home range two and a half times that of the females. Only the Valley floor lions had differences in dry and wet season home range size (dry season 57.7 km² and wet season 379.3 km²). Demographic variables, when compared to other lion populations in similar habitat in protected areas in Africa, did not differ and the Mana Pools National Park lion population appears to be normal. The Mana Pools National Park is surrounded in the west and east by Safari areas (administered by ZPWLMA) and has no man-made or natural barriers between them. No work was carried out on lions in the surrounding Safari areas but it was found that males frequently made excursions into the Safari areas (one collared male was shot in Chewore Safari area 80 km from the darting site in Mana Pools). Lions also frequently crossed the Zambezi River into the Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia. It is presumed that there is a two-way movement between the Mana Pools National Park and Safari areas and the Park and the Lower Zambezi National Park, but could not be confirmed in this study. The spotted hyaena population in the Mana Pools National Park was found to be in the low-medium category when compared to other populations in protected areas in Africa (Purchase, 1999). All data accrued during the present study showed that this population do not pose a threat to lion conservation in and around the Mana Pools National Park.
Afrikaans: Die demografie van die leeupopulasie in die Mana Pools Nasionale Park is vanaf 2001 tot 2007 bestudeer. Geen gedetaileerde studie oor hierdie onderwerp is nog voorheen in die park uitgevoer nie. Demografiese data is van ses troppe versamel, met twee troppe (Chitake en Jesse) op die Zambezi-vallei se bodem teen die basis van die Zambezi platorand in die suide, en vier troppe op die Zambezi vloedvlakte in die noorde. Die Zambezi vloedvlakte in die Mana Pools Nasionale Park is 95.5 km² en beslaan 11.2% van die park. Ongeveer 46% van die volwasse leeupopulasie kom op die vloedvlakte voor waar ongeveer 63% van die leeus se prooidiere in die park te vinde is. Nie al die troppe kon met dieselfde intensiteit bestudeer word nie, maar demografiese data kon vir al ses troppe ingesamel word. Die Nyamepi trop op die vloedvlakte is die intensiefste bestudeer. Die leeupopulasie vir die Mana Pools Nasionale Park is beraam op 67 volwasse en sub-volwasse leeus. Die digtheid in die park was 3.05 leeus/100 km². Die digtheid het gewissel van 0.65/100 km² vir leeus van die platorand waar 0.3% van die leeus se prooi spesies voorkom tot 12.7/100 km² op die vloedvlakte. Daar was 1.8 volwasse mannetjies vir elke 3.3 volwasse wyfies en al die troppe het een mannetjie gehad. Gemiddelde grootte van groepe (volwasse en sub-volwassenes) was 7.8 (reeks 5-11). Die volwasse en sub-volwassene ouderdomsgroep maak 70.7% van die populasie uit en groot en klein welpies 29.3% van die populasie. Oorlewing van welpies tot op ouderdom een jaar was 66.7%. Wyfies lewer hulle eerste werpsel tussen die ouderdom van 43-53 maande en groepe van welpies is gemiddeld elke 38.5 gebore. Mannetjies behou hulle troppe gemiddeld vir 33.25 maande en sub-volwasse mannetjies versprei tussen 36-57 maande, met ‘n gemiddeld van 39.8 maande. Tuisgebiede wissel tussen 28.1 km² en 278 km² op die vloedvlakte en tussen 50.2 km² en 379.3 km² op die bodem van die Vallei. Die mannetjies van die vloedvlakte se Nyamepi trop se tuisgebied is twee en ‘n half maal groter as die wyfies se tuisgebied. Slegs die leeus op die Vallei het verskillende tuisgebiede tussen die droë (57.7 km²) en die nat (379.3 km²) seisoene gehad. Gemeet teen ander leeupopulasies van vergelykbare beskermde gebiede in Afrika stem die demografiese veranderlikes in die Mana Pools Nasionale Park grootliks ooreen en skyn die populasie normaal te wees. Die Mana Pools Nasionale Park word in die weste en die ooste begrens deur Safari gebiede (onder administrasie van die ZPWLMA) met geen mensgemaakte skeiding tussen die gebiede nie. Geen navorsing is op die leeus in die omringende Safari gebiede uitgevoer nie, maar mannetjies maak dikwels ekskursies in die Safari gebiede (‘n mannetjie met ‘n halsband is in die Chewore Safari area geskiet, sowat 80 km vanwaar hy in die Mana Pools gepyl is). Leeus steek ook dikwels die Zambezirivier oor na die Lower Zambezi Nasionale Park in Zambië. Daar word aanvaar daar is ‘n tweerigting beweging tussen die Mana Pools Nasionale Park en die Safari gebiede en die Park en die Laer Zambezi Nasionale Park, maar dit kon nie in die studie bevestig word nie. Die gevlekte hiëna populasie in die Mana Pools Nasionale Park is in die laag-medium kategorie indien dit vergelyk word met die ander populasies in die beskermde gebiede in Afrika (Purchase, 1999). Al die data wat in die huidige studie ingesamel is toon dat die populasie nie ‘n bedreiging vir die bewaring van leeus in en rondom die Mana Pools Nasionale Park inhou nie.
Thesis (Ph.D. (Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences))--University of the Free State, 2008, Ecosystem management -- Zimbabwe -- Mana Pools National Park, Lions -- Zimbabwe -- Mana Pools National Park, Animal populations -- Zimbabwe -- Mana Pools National Park