Factors affecting leopard (Panthera pardus) spatial ecology, with particular reference to Namibian farmlands
- October 1, 2005
- by Marker L. L., A.J. Dickman
Understanding spatial ecology is fundamental to effectively managing large, wide-ranging carnivores such as the leopard (Panthera pardus). While numerous studies have been conducted on leopards within protected areas, more information regarding leopard ecology is needed outside such areas for effective conservation. This study examined the spatial ecology of leopards living on commercial Namibian farmlands, and assessed information from other studies to investigate which factors appeared to influence leopard range size and density. Home range sizes were particularly large in Namibia, with high range overlap, and neither sex exhibited exclusive home range use. There were no significant differences in range size between males and females, or between wet and dry seasons for either sex. Rainfall did not directly affect range size, but exerted an influence via prey biomass. Leopard density was positively correlated with prey biomass and negatively related to range size. Leopards showed marked variation in range size and land tenure systems between studies, reflecting their remarkable ecological flexibility. Nevertheless, large home range sizes and low population densities mean that leopards require large, contiguous tracts of suitable habitat, and that more conservation efforts must be extended beyond protected areas to ensure the long-term viability of leopard populations in such areas.