Matt W. Hayward & Graham I. H. Kerley, Journal of Zoology, 2006, vol. 267, pp. 309-322
Many years ago I moved to South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park to conduct a post doc on the reintroduction of lions, leopards and spotted hyaenas there. The regional manager for SAN Parks was concerned that the lions would target valuable buffalo and posed a simple question to me – “What are they going to eat?” I set about answering that question (and this video presents how I did that). Myself and collaborators at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University identified the preferred prey of lions and then extended this work to predict and test their diet at other sites. We then found that there was a tight relationship between the biomass of the preferred prey of lions and the density of lions themselves and there is a negative relationship between lion home range size and preferred prey biomass. This information has been invaluable to conservation managers as they can now predict the diet, home range and carrying capacity of their large predator guild based on the suite of prey present at a site.
Since then, we have expanded this work to look at the rest of the African large predator guild, Eurasian predators and are now working on the prey preferences of American and Australian predators. We now hold a database of prey preferences based on over 100,000 kills and we will use this to test various hypotheses relating to optimal foraging theory, mesopredator release and the impacts of invasive predators. It’s an exciting time, but worth pointing out that this research is based on a plethora of natural history style studies and the demise of natural history makes the kind of meta-analysis that we are conducting very difficult in the future. The publishing paradigm of only valuing high impact papers is not of particular benefit to practical biodiversity conservation.
Matt W. Hayward