Anthropogenic influences on the behaviour & physiology of African carnivores

Presented by Kay Holekamp

Kay E. Holekamp
Department of Zoology
Program in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Behavior
Michigan State University
Date: 26th September, 2013
Time: 08:30 A.M
Due to habitat fragmentation and loss in recent decades, many species of mammalian carnivores have become largely confined to protected areas. Disturbingly, however, some large carnivore species are disappearing even from these refuges. Human-induced mortality is frequently associated with human-carnivore conflicts in areas where carnivores persist but human populations are expanding. In addition to such lethal effects, humans can potentially also have non-lethal effects on carnivores by modifying their behavior and physiology, and these modifications may predict enhanced mortality or other demographic change. Of all the large carnivores inhabiting Africa, the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) appears to exhibit the greatest behavioral and ecological plasticity, and extirpation of this species from a particular habitat usually lags behind loss of other carnivores. Spotted hyenas therefore may offer us a conservative indicator of ecosystem health before African habitats become too severely degraded to support other large carnivores. Here I review recent data from our long-term field study to document anthropogenic effects on the behavior, stress physiology, and demography of free-living hyenas in Kenya.