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Individual study: Management of a re-established lion Panthera leo population to reduce livestock losses, Umfolozi and Hluhluwe Game Reserves, Zululand, South Africa

Published source details

Anderson J.L. (1981) The re-establishment and management of a lion Panthera leo population in Zululand, South Africa. Biological Conservation, 19, 107-117

Summary

Following re-establishment of lions Panthera leo in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve (28º02’S, 32º03’E) in 1965, the population subsequently grew. In 1968 three sub-adult males moved onto adjacent cattle ranches, began predating livestock and thus shot. In 1970, to try and limit lion movement, a 1.5 m high perimeter fence was reinforced with wire mesh; this proved ineffective. In 1972, work began to increase the fence height to 2 m (including an interconnecting corridor between the two reserves, about 96,000 ha in total). In 1973, a policy of killing lions near the fence was implemented. However, these measures again proved ineffective in reducing livestock predation, in 1973 the number of livestock killed reached a peak (83). It was decided that research was needed to identify alternative means of reducing stock losses, whilst maintaining as high a lion population as possible.

Within the reserve 1-2 lions per pride (20 animals in total) were anesthetized (using a dart gun) and fitted with individually recognisable collars or ear-tags. Resightings helped determine which animals belonged to which of eight prides and to define pride territories. Also, by the end of 1974, the minimum population size (114) was found to be almost twice that of previous estimates.

It was considered that a population comprising animals unlikely to leave the pride territory would result in much reduced levels of livestock predation. Accordingly in late 1974, culling of sub-adult males between 18-24 months old (i.e. those becoming nomadic when compelled to leave the pride) was initiated.

Movement beyond the reserve comprised mostly sub-adult males but also temporarily others where a pride territory boundary abutted the fence. Fence improvements probably reduced this but some stretches (e.g. river crossings) were unfenced thus lions could move through. In 1974, 12 sub-adult males (in addition to 25 over the previous 2 years) were culled and livestock losses were reduced by 70% (25 vs. 83 in 1973), declining further (4) during 1975. Livestock losses increased (25) during 1976 as heavy and late rains hampered culling (Table 1 summarise livestock killed and lions culled).  

 
In 1976, sub-adult females also began to disperse beyond the fence, thus culling was extended to remove 50% of such females. The author considers that (up to 1978) that the management aims were largely achieved.
 
 
Table 1. Livestock killed by lions and the number of males (all sub-adult) and females (sub-adult and adult) killed outside the reserves boundaries, 1971-1978.
 
Year
Livestock killed
Male lions killed
Female lions killed
1971
48
7
1
1972
24
12
2
1973
83
13
3
1974
25
12
1
1975
4
3
2
1976
25
4
8
1977
0
0
0
1978
14
2
2

 

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