European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 60, Issue 2, pp 341–349 | Cite as

Predator–prey relationships in a middle Asian Montane steppe: Persian leopard versus urial wild sheep in Northeastern Iran

  • Mohammad S. Farhadinia
  • Ehsan M. Moqanaki
  • Fatemeh Hosseini-Zavarei
Original Paper

Abstract

Management controversies arise when both of the prey and predator in an ecosystem are species of conservation concern. We investigated trophic interactions between the endangered Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor) and a declining mountain ungulate, urial wild sheep (Ovis vignei), on a high-altitude steppe of Iran. During two consecutive photo-trapping seasons of 1,300 nights in total, a minimum population of four adult leopards (one female and three males) was documented. Scat analysis indicated that urial wild sheep was the staple of the leopard diet with 48.44 % of total biomass consumed. Remains of domestic livestock in leopard scats were negligible yet alarming (14.53 % biomass consumed), followed by wild pigs (8.13 %) and wild goat (1.26 %). Financial costs of leopard depredation to livestock breeders during our study period were comparatively lower than livestock–leopard conflict hotspots across Iran. Using distance sampling, urial density was 15.8 individuals km−2 (±SE 6.2), and a total biomass of 47,621.5 kg for wild ungulates in the study area was estimated. We estimated that the annual removal rate of urial by leopards during our study period was 9.4 % of the total urial population. We suggest that continuous monitoring of the leopard and prey populations to assess predation impact should be considered, particularly in areas where a single species comprises a remarkable proportion of the leopard diet. In the meantime, assessing probable conflicts with local communities is recommended as a parallel management action to ensure long-term human–leopard coexistence. Our findings will aid wildlife managers in prey-depleted arid environments of western Asia to identify susceptible wild prey populations to predation by large carnivores; hence, significantly contribute in development and implementation of effective conservation measures to mitigate management conflicts.

Keywords

Persian leopard Panthera pardus saxicolor Feeding ecology Distance sampling Camera trap Predation impact Urial wild sheep Iran 

Supplementary material

10344_2013_791_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (1.4 mb)
ESM 1(JPEG 1431 kb)
10344_2013_791_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (1.3 mb)
ESM 2(JPEG 1361 kb)

References

  1. Ackerman BB, Lindzey FG, Hemker TP (1984) Cougar food habits in Southern Utah. J Wildl Manag 48:147–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aryal A, Kreigenhofer B (2009) Summer diet composition of the common leopard (Panthera pardus) (Carnivora: Felidae) in Nepal. J Threat Taxa 1(11):562–566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bailey TN (1993) The African Leopard: ecology and behaviour of solitary felid. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Balme GA, Hunter LTB, Slotow R (2009a) Evaluating methods for counting cryptic carnivores. J Wildl Manag 73(3):433–441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Balme GA, Slotow R, Hunter LTB (2009b) Impact of conservation interventions on the dynamics and persistence of a persecuted leopard population. Biol Conserv 142:2681–2690CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Balme GA, Hunter L, Braczkowski AR (2012) Applicability of age-based hunting regulations for African leopards. PLoS ONE 7(4):e35209PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bertram BCB (1999) Leopard. In: Macdonald DW (ed) The encyclopedia of mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 44–48Google Scholar
  8. Bijani M (1997) An introduction to Sarigol National Park, BSc Thesis, University of Environment, Karaj, IranGoogle Scholar
  9. Bothma JDP, Le Riche EAN (1984) Aspects of the ecology and the behaviour of the leopard Panthera pardus in the Kalahari Desert. Koedoe Suppl 259–279Google Scholar
  10. Breitenmoser U, Shavgulidze I, Askerov E, Khorozyan I, Farhadinia MS, Can E, Bilgin C, Zazanashvili N (2010) Leopard conservation in the Caucasus. Cat News 53:39–40Google Scholar
  11. Buckland ST, Anderson DR, Burnham KP, Laake JL, Borchers DL, Thomas L (2001) Introduction to distance sampling estimating abundance of biological populations. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  12. Burnham KP, Anderson DR (1998) Model selection and inference: a practical information-theoretical approach. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Burnham KP, Anderson DR, Laake JL (1980) Estimation of density from line transect sampling of biological populations. Wildl Monogr 72:1–202Google Scholar
  14. Corbett LK (1989) Assessing the diet of dingoes from feces: a comparison of three methods. J Wildl Manag 53:343–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Darvishsefat AA (2006) Atlas of protected areas of Iran. University of Tehran Press, TehranGoogle Scholar
  16. DeCesare NJ, Hebblewhite M, Robinson HS, Musiani M (2010) Endangered apparently: the role of apparent competition in endangered species conservation. Anim Conserv 13:353–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Edgaonkar A (2008) Ecology of the Leopard (Panthera pardus) in Bori Wildlife Sanctuary and Satpura National Park India. PhD dissertation, University of Florida 1–135Google Scholar
  18. Enk T, Picton H, Williams JS (2001) Factors limiting a Bighorn Sheep population in Montana following a die-off. Northwest Sci 75:280–291Google Scholar
  19. Farhadinia M (2010) Phylogeny, genetic diversity and craniometric analysis of Persian leopard Panthera pardus saxicolor, Master thesis, University of Tehran [In Persian]Google Scholar
  20. Farhadinia M, Nezami B, Mahdavi A, Hatami K (2007) Photos of Persian leopard in Alborz Mountains, Iran. Cat news 46:34–35Google Scholar
  21. Farhadinia MS, Mahdavi A, Hosseini-Zavarei F (2009) Reproductive ecology of Persian leopard in Sarigol National Park. Zool Middle East 48:13–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Festa-Bianchet M, Coulson T, Gaillard J-M, Hogg J, Pelletier F (2006) Stochastic predation events and population persistence in bighorn sheep. Proc R Soc 273:1537–1543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Funston PJ, Groom RJ, Lindsey PA (2013) Insights into the management of large carnivores for profitable wildlife-based land uses in African savannas. PLoS ONE 8(3):e59044. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059044 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gavashelishvili A, Lukarevskiy V (2008) Modelling the habitat requirements of leopard Panthera pardus in west and central Asia. J Appl Ecol 45:579–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gervasi V, Nilsen EB, Sand H, Panzacchi M, Rauset GR, Pedersen HC, Kindberg J, Wabakken P, Zimmermann B, Odden J, Liberg O, Swenson JE, Linnell JDC (2012) Predicting the potential demographic impact of predators on their prey: a comparative analysis of two carnivore–ungulate systems in Scandinavia. J Anim Ecol 81(2):443–454PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ghoddousi A, Khaleghi Hamidi A, Ghadirian T, Ashayeri D, Khorozyan I (2010) The status of the endangered Persian leopard Panthera pardus saxicolor in Bamu national park, Iran. Oryx 44(4):551–557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Goshtasb H (2001) Investigation of habitat, food habits and reproduction of wild boar in Golestan National Park. PhD Thesis. Islamic Azad University- Science and Research Branch, Tehran, Iran [In Persian]Google Scholar
  28. Goyal SP, Agrawal MK, Thapa R (2000) A study on distribution, relative abundance and food habits of leopard in Garhwal Himalayas. Technical report, Wildlife Institute of India 1–31Google Scholar
  29. Hayward MW, Henschel P, O’Brien J, Hofmeyr M, Balme G, Kerley GIH (2006) Prey preferences of the leopard (Panthera pardus). J Zool (London) 1–16Google Scholar
  30. Henschel P, Abernethy KA, White LJT (2005) Leopard food habits in the Lope′ National Park, Gabon, Central Africa. Afr J Ecol 43:21–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jedrzejewski W, Jedrzejewski B, Okarma H, Schmidt K, Zub K, Musiani M (2000) Prey selection and predation by wolves in Bialowieza Primeval Forest, Poland. J Mammal 81:197–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Johnsingh AJT (1992) Prey selection in three large sympatric carnivores in Bandipur. Mammalia 56(4):517–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Johnson KG, Wei W, Reid DG, Jinchu II (1993) Food habits of Asiatic leopards (Panthera pardus fusca) in Wolong Reserve, Sichuan, China. J Mammal 74:646–650CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Karanth KU, Nichols JD (1998) Estimation of tiger densities in India using photographic captures and recaptures. Ecology 79:2852–2862CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Karanth KU, Nichols JD (2002) Monitoring tigers and their prey: A manual for Researchers, Managers and Conservationists in Tropical Asia. Centre for Wildlife Studies, BangaloreGoogle Scholar
  36. Karanth KU, Sunquist ME (1995) Prey selection by tiger, leopard and dhole in tropical forests. J Trop Ecol 64:439–450Google Scholar
  37. Khorozyan I (2008) Panthera pardus ssp. saxicolor. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Accessed 28 March 2013
  38. Kiabi BH, Dareshouri BF, Ghaemi RA, Jahanshahi M (2002) Population status of the Persian leopard in Iran. Zool Middle East 26:41–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lovari S, Boesi R, Minder I, Mucci N, Randi E, Dematteis A, Ale SB (2009) Restoring a keystone predator may endanger a prey species in a human-altered ecosystem: the return of the snow leopard to Sagarmatha National Park. Anim Conserv 12:559–570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Maheshwari A (2006) Food Habits and Prey Abundance of Leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) in Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, Dissertation, Aligarh Muslim UniversityGoogle Scholar
  41. Marker LL, Dickman A (2005) Factors affecting leopard (Panthera pardus) spatial ecology, with particular reference to Namibian farmlands. S Afr J Wildl Res 35(2):105–115Google Scholar
  42. Martins Q, Horsnell WGC, Titus W, Rautenbach T, Harris S (2011) Diet determination of the Cape Mountain leopards using global positioning system location clusters and scat analysis. J Zool 283:81–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mills MGL, Harvey M (2001) African predators. Struik Publishers, Cape TownGoogle Scholar
  44. Miquelle DG, Arzhanova TD, Solkin VA (1996) A recovery plan for conservation of the Far Eastern leopard: Results of an international conference held in Vladivostok, Russia. Report to USAID Russian Far East Environmental Policy and Technology Project.Google Scholar
  45. Moghadam MR (1993) Rangeland management. University of Tehran, Tehran [In Persian]Google Scholar
  46. Mukherjee S, Goyal SP, Chellem R (1994) Standardisation of scat analysis techniques for leopard in Gir National park, western India. Mammalia 58:139–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. O’Brien TG, Kinnaird MA, Wibisono HT (2003) Crouching tigers, hidden prey: Sumatran tiger and prey populations in a tropical forest landscape. Anim Conserv 6:131–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Odden M, Wegge P (2009) Kill rates and food consumption of leopards in Bardia National Park, Nepal. Acta Theriol 54(1):23–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Perez JM, Serrano E, Alpizar-Jara R, Granados JE, Soriguer RC (2002) The potential of distance sampling methods to estimate abundance of mountain ungulates: review of usefulness and limitations. Pirineos 157:15–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ramakrishnan U, Coss RG, Pelkey NW (1999) Tiger decline caused by the reduction of large ungulate prey: evidence from a study of leopard diets in southern India. Biol Conserv 89:113–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ramesh T, Snehalatha V, Sankar K, Qureshi Q (2009) Food habits and prey selection of tiger and leopard in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu, India. J Sci Trans Environ Technov 2(2):170–181Google Scholar
  52. Rödel HG, Scholze WWA, Paulsch A (2004) Notes on the feeding habits of the leopard in the alpine zone of Mount Kenya. Mammalia 68(1):61–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rominger EM, Whitlaw HA, Weybright DL, Dunn WC, Ballard WB (2004) The influence of mountain lion predation on bighorn sheep translocations. J Wildl Manag 68:993–999CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sathyakumar S (1992) Food habits of leopard (Panthera pardus) on Mundanthurai Plateau, Tamil nadu, India. Tigerpaper 19(2):4–6Google Scholar
  55. Schaller GB (1972) The Serengeti lion: a study of predator–prey relations. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 480 ppGoogle Scholar
  56. Sepasi Y, Falahatkar S (2006) A preliminary key to the hairs of mammals of Iran, thesis. University of Tehran, Faculty of Natural Resources [In Persian]Google Scholar
  57. Sever Z, Mendelssohn H (1991) Spatial movement patterns of Porcupines (Hystrix indica). Mammalia 55:187–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Stander PE, Haden PJ, Kaqece G (1997) The ecology of asociality in Namibian Leopard. J Zool (Lond) 242:343–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sunquist M, Sunquist F (2002) Wild Cats of the World, Chicago, 452 pp.Google Scholar
  60. Thomas L, Laake JL, Strindberg S, Marques FFC, Buckland ST, Borchers DL, Anderson DR, Burnham KP, Hedley SL, Pollard JH, Bishop JRB, Marques TA (2006). Distance 5.0. Release “x”1. Research Unit for Wildlife Population Assessment, University of St. Andrews, UK. http://www.ruwpa.st-and.ac.uk/distance/
  61. Trites AW, Joy R (2005) Dietary analysis from fecal samples: how many scats are enough? J Mammal 86(4):704–712CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Valdez R (2008) Ovis orientalis. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Accessed 25 August 2012
  63. Valdez R, Alamia LV, Bunch TD, Mowlavi M (1977) Weights and measurements of Iranian wild sheep and wild goats. J Wildl Manag 41(3):592–594CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Valeix M, Hemson G, Loveridge AJ, Mills G, Macdonald DW (2012) Behavioural adjustments of a large carnivore to access secondary prey in a human-dominated landscape. J Appl Ecol 49(1):73–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wegge P, Odden M, Pokharel CP, Storaas T (2009) Predator–prey relationships and responses of ungulates and their predators to the establishment of protected areas: a case study of tigers, leopards and their prey in Bardia national park, Nepal. Biol Conserv 142:189–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wegge P, Shrestha R, Flagstad Ø (2012) Snow leopard Panthera uncia predation on livestock and wild prey in a mountain valley in northern Nepal: implications for conservation management. Wildl Biol 18:131–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wingard GJ, Harris RB, Amgalanbaatar S, Reading RP (2011) Estimating abundance of mountain ungulates incorporating imperfect detection: argali Ovis ammon in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia. Wildl Biol 17:93–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Ziaie H (2008) A field guide to mammals of Iran, 2nd edn. Wildlife Center Publication. Tehran, Iran, 432 pp [In Persian]Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohammad S. Farhadinia
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ehsan M. Moqanaki
    • 1
  • Fatemeh Hosseini-Zavarei
    • 1
  1. 1.Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS)TehranIran
  2. 2.Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), Department of ZoologyUniversity of Oxford, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney HouseAbingdonUK

Personalised recommendations