Temporal shifts in activity of prey following large predator reintroductions
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The response of prey to predation risk varies through time and space. These responses relate to trade-offs between foraging and predator avoidance. Following the extirpation of predators from many landscapes, the responses related to predator avoidance may have been lost or diluted. Investigating the activity pattern of prey species on comparable landscapes with and without large predators provides an opportunity to understand how predators may shape prey activity and behaviour. Using camera trap data from neighbouring fenced sections of the Addo Elephant National Park (Eastern Cape, South Africa), we investigated the activity patterns of species exposed to large predators, where the predators were only present in one of the sections. Our results suggest that prey species at risk of predation (e.g., buffalo, kudu and warthog) are more likely to be active diurnally when co-existing with nocturnally active predators, thereby reducing the activity overlap with these predators. In the absence of predators, kudu and buffalo were more active at night resulting in a low overlap in activity between sections. Warthog activity was predominantly diurnal in both sections, resulting in a high overlap in activity between sections. The presence of predators reduced the nocturnal activity of warthogs from 6 to 0.6 % of all warthog captures in each section. Elephants, which are above the preferred prey weight range of the predators and therefore have a low risk of predation, showed higher overlap in activity periodicity between predator-present and predator-absent areas. Our findings suggest that maintaining prey with their predators has the added benefit of conserving the full spectrum of prey adaptive behaviours.
KeywordsAfrican buffalo Diel pattern Kudu Lion Predator–prey interaction Spotted hyaena
We thank the South African National Parks for the permission to conduct the research in the Addo Elephant National Park. We thank Thando Mendala, Margeret Hook and Margeret Wisniewska for their help in servicing the camera traps during the field work periods. The project was supported by Budget Van and Car Rental. A support was also received from the George Mason University and the Lincoln Park Zoological Gardens. CJT was supported by a National Research Foundation Post-Doctoral Grant (71541:2010) and a Claude Leon Post-Doctoral Grant, and LM was supported by a National Research Foundation Grant (74189:2011).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
The experiment conducted complies with the current laws of the country in which it was performed.
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