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LEOPARD (PANTHERA PARDUS PARDUS) DENSITY IN THE BENOUE COMPLEX, NORTH CAMEROON
Large carnivore populations in Western Africa are decreasing due to habitat fragmentation and anthropogenic activities. The Bénoué complex, in northern Cameroon, has already experienced local extinctions of cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and African wild dog (Lycaon pictus). Monitoring population densities of the remaining large carnivores is essential for the conservation of this area. In this study, density estimates of the African leopard (Panthera pardus pardus) were calculated for a three month period using different methodologies; i) track counts, ii) baited camera traps and iii) calling stations. Firstly, track counts were counted along 25 km transects in each of the National Parks composing the Bénoué complex (Bénoué, Bouba Ndjida and Faro National parks). We used the model from Funston et al (2010) to estimate population density of large carnivores from track counts. Secondly, baited camera traps were installed every 2 km throughout a 25 km transect. The cameras were left for up to a week on each site and then switched to a new site, totalling 51 camera trap nights. Finally, 21 calling stations were installed in Bouba Ndjida and Bénoué National park, leaving 5 km distance between sites. Calling stations consisted of playing hyena and buffalo calf calls from the car to attract large carnivores for direct observations or for playback responses. The species, the number of individuals and the sex of each individual were registered when possible during direct observations. Also, the number of vocal responses to the playbacks were recorded for each species.
In the end, track counts were the best method to estimate population density of leopards in the Bénoué Complex due to the low number of visits in baited camera traps and calling stations. Our results showed that Bénoué National Park (NP) had the lowest leopard density estimates inside the Bénoué complex (0.87 leopard per 100 km2) whilst Bouba Ndjida NP held the highest (1/100 km2), followed closely by Faro NP (0.97/100 km2). Furthermore, Bénoué NP has experienced a 23% decrease in leopard densities, whilst in Faro NP they increased by 30% and in Bouba Ndjida by 45%. The still ongoing bush trade and the competition between M'bororos (nomad cow herders) and herbivore prey species are likely to explain the low leopard densities in the Bénoué complex.
African Leopard, population density, track counts, camera traps, calling stations.
U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Foundation Leo
Biologia da Conservação
Laura Lucas Trujillo