Spotted hyaena space use in relation to human infrastructure inside a protected area

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 11
  • SDG 9
  • SDG 2
  • Abstract:

    Increasing human population growth has led to elevated levels of human-carnivore conflict. However, some carnivore populations have adapted to urban environments and the resources they supply. Such associations may influence carnivore ecology, behaviour and life-history. Pockets of urbanisation sometimes occur within protected areas, so that anthropogenic influences on carnivore biology are not necessarily confined to unprotected areas. In this study we evaluated associations between human infrastructure and related activity and space use of spotted hyaenas within one of the largest protected areas in South Africa, the Kruger National Park. Home range size was smaller for the dominant female of a clan living in close proximity to humans than that of the dominant female of a clan without direct access to human infrastructure. The home range including human infrastructure was also used less evenly during the night, presumably when the animals were active. Within this home range, a village area was preferred during the night, when the least modified areas within the village were preferred and administration and highly modified areas were avoided. During the day, however, there were no preference or avoidance of the village area, but all habitats except unmodified habitats within the village area were avoided.Wesuggest that human infrastructure and associated activity influenced hyaena space use, primarily through alterations in the spatial distribution of food. However, these effects may have been indirectly caused by habitat modification that generated favourable hunting habitat rather than a direct effect caused by access to human food such as garbage. Because of the often pivotal effects of apex predators in terrestrial ecosystems, we encourage further work aimed to quantify how human presence influences large carnivores and associated ecosystem processes within protected areas.