Leopard Panthera pardus density in southern Mozambique: evidence from spatially explicit capture-recapture in Xonghile Game Reserve
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Rigorous status estimates of populations of large carnivores are necessary to inform their management and help evaluate the effectiveness of conservation interventions. The African leopard Panthera pardus faces rising anthropogenic pressures across most of its contracting sub-Saharan range, but the scarcity of reliable population estimates means that management decisions often have to rely on expert opinion rather than being based on sound evidence. This is particularly true for Mozambique, where little is known about the ecology or conservation status of leopard populations as a result of prolonged armed conflict. We used camera trapping and spatially explicit capture-recapture models to provide a leopard density estimate in Xonghile Game Reserve in southern Mozambique, which is part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier conservation initiative. The estimated population density was 2.60 +/- SE 0.96 leopards/100 km(2). Our study provides a baseline leopard density for the region and the first empirical density estimate for southern Mozambique. Our results also suggest that current methods used to set trophy hunting quotas for leopards, both in Mozambique and elsewhere in Africa, may be leading to unsustainable quotas, which highlights the importance of robust empirical data in guiding conservation policy.
- RESEARCH: Somers M