Predator–Primate Distribution, Activity, and Co-occurrence in Relation to Habitat and Human Activity Across Fragmented and Contiguous Forests in Northeastern Madagascar
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Predator–primate interactions are understudied, yet predators have been shown to influence primate behavior, population dynamics, and spatial distribution. An understanding of these interactions is important for the successful management and conservation of these species. Novel approaches are needed to understand better the spatial relationships between predators and primates across changing landscapes. We combined photographic surveys of predators and humans with line-transect sampling of lemurs across contiguous and fragmented forests in Madagascar to 1) compare relative activity; 2) estimate probability of occupancy and detection; 3) estimate predator–primate and local people–primate co-occurrence; and 4) assess variables influencing these parameters across contiguous and fragmented forests. In fragmented (compared to contiguous) forest sites endemic predator and lemur activity were lower whereas introduced predator and local people activity were higher. Our two-species interaction occupancy models revealed a higher number of interactions among species across contiguous forest where predator and lemur occupancy were highest. Mouse lemurs show evidence of “avoidance” (SIF < 1.0) with all predator species (endemic and introduced) in contiguous forest whereas white-fronted brown lemurs show “attraction” (SIF > 1.0) with feral cats and local people in contiguous forest. Feral cats demonstrated the highest number of interactions with lemurs, despite their distribution being limited to only contiguous forest. Distance to forest edge and distance to nearby villages were important in predicting predator occupancy and detection. These results highlight the growing threat to endemic predators and lemurs as habitat loss and fragmentation increase throughout Madagascar. We demonstrate the effectiveness of a novel combination of techniques to investigate how predator species impact primate species across a gradient of forest fragmentation.