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Coexistence of African lions, livestock, and people in a landscape with variable
human land use and seasonal movements
, Scott Creel
, David Christianson
Department of Ecology, 310 Lewis Hall, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA
School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona, Biological Sciences East, Tuscon, AZ 85721, USA
Received 26 May 2012
Received in revised form 7 September 2012
Accepted 14 September 2012
Community Conservation Areas
Apex carnivores around the world have experienced rapid population declines and local extirpation due
to anthropogenic pressures, and they are increasingly restricted to government-protected areas (GPAs).
Though GPAs are critical for carnivore conservation, mixed-use landscapes may be crucial for sustaining
viable populations. Few studies, particularly in Africa, have examined joint use of a landscape by people
and conﬂict-prone carnivores, such as the African lion (Panthera leo), in a situation where conﬂict is low.
In southern Kenya, we studied a lion population in an unfenced rangeland occupied by the Maasai people
and their livestock. The Maasai shift their settlements and grazing areas seasonally across a permanent
river, a practice we hypothesized might promote coexistence. We radio-collared lions (n=6) to
determine density and document spatial patterns in response to seasonal movements of people in a
Conservation Area and buffer zone (250 km
). Despite high livestock density, lion density was compara-
ble to many GPAs (0.136 individuals/km
). Lion spatial distribution and habitat selection shifted in rela-
tion to seasonal movements of people and livestock. Conﬂict was low, likely because lions increased their
use of the Conservation Area and dense habitats when people were nearby. Lion responses to human
movements reduced access to permanent water, but not prey. A land use system based on temporary set-
tlements and grazing areas allowed lions to co-occur with people and livestock at high density. These
results suggest a general strategy for the conservation of apex carnivores outside of GPAs, focusing on
areas that exhibit spatiotemporal variation in human land use.
Ó2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
In the past century, carnivore populations have experienced
drastic, global reductions due to increasing human population den-
sities, habitat loss and fragmentation, reduced prey availability,
and elevated rates of conﬂict (Gittleman et al., 2001). These de-
clines are most severe in large species, which require large areas
with intact prey communities, and are prone to killing livestock
(Woodroffe, 2000). As a result, large carnivores are usually among
the ﬁrst species to disappear from landscapes, often with strong
cascading effects on ecosystem structure and function (Estes
et al., 2011).
Most large African carnivore species, including the African wild
dog (Lycaon pictus), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and African lion
(Panthera leo) have declined markedly in their geographic range
and population sizes. The geographic range of lions is now 22% of
their historic range (Bauer et al., 2008). Many regional lion popula-
tions have been locally extirpated and others are increasingly iso-
lated within national parks and other government-protected areas
(GPAs), which are not immune to anthropogenic pressures
(Woodroffe and Ginsberg, 1998). As a result, the continent-wide
lion estimate is now less than 25,000 individuals, compared to
more than 100,000 individuals only 40 years ago (Bauer et al.,
2008). Continent-wide geographic and numeric declines of 75%
in roughly 10 generations are cause for serious, immediate conser-
In East Africa, extant lion populations have been exposed to a
rapidly changing human landscape. For thousands of years, many
East African rangelands were inhabited by low-density, nomadic
pastoralist communities who moved with their herds seasonally,
following the rains to secure forage for their livestock (Marshall,
1990). Recent government land policies and rapid population
growth have discouraged pastoralism and encouraged permanent
human settlements, land privatization, and crop production
(Homewood et al., 2009). These land use changes have converted,
fragmented, and restricted access to important habitats for lions
(Ogutu et al., 2005), including dense cover and riparian areas,
which are important for stalking predators such as lions (Mosser
et al., 2009; Spong, 2002). In addition, many agro-pastoralist land-
scapes have livestock densities and grazing intensities that can
competitively displace native ungulate species (Groom and Harris,
0006-3207/$ - see front matter Ó2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 406 994 5646.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (P. Schuette).
Biological Conservation 157 (2013) 148–154
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/biocon
Author's personal copy
2010). This process has contributed to large, ongoing decreases in
ungulate densities across Africa (Craigie et al., 2010), and thus, de-
clines in large carnivores that specialize on ungulates. The detri-
mental impacts of land use change and decreased prey
availability are well-documented in many areas where human–
carnivore conﬂict rates are high (Hazzah et al., 2009; Patterson
et al., 2004).
In Kenya, lions are thought to have decreased from approxi-
mately 2750 individuals to 2000 in 10 years, a decline of nearly
30% (Kenya’s National Large Carnivore Task Force, 2010). Many
of the remaining lion populations lie within southern Kenya’s
GPAs (Kenya’s National Large Carnivore Task Force, 2010),
including the Maasai Mara National Reserve, where lion densities
are perhaps the highest in Africa (Ogutu and Dublin, 2002). Even
in this lion hotspot, anthropogenic mortality is common along
the reserve boundary, where human–wildlife conﬂict is high as
crop production has become more common and livestock popu-
lations have increased (Ogutu et al., 2005). In these circum-
stances, GPAs may serve as ecological sources and neighboring
community lands as ecological sinks (Woodroffe and Ginsberg,
1998). Similar source-sink dynamics exist for lions in Zambia’s
South Luangwa National Park and adjacent Game Management
Areas, where lion mortality is unsustainably high (Becker, in
Despite these patterns, unprotected arid rangelands in Kenya
are estimated to support 65% of the country’s lion population
(Chardonnet, 2002). Rangelands that occur in the southern Rift Val-
ley of Kenya retain conditions that have the potential to support a
viable lion population outside of any central-government protec-
tion. This region is inhabited by the Maasai people, who retain
many of their traditions, including seasonal movements with their
herds to secure grazing forage. This land use system, coupled with
low human population density, has likely contributed to locally
high livestock and native ungulate densities occurring on the same
landscape (Schuette, 2012). Apex predators, including lion, occur in
the region with little reported conﬂict over the past decade (Kenya
Wildlife Service, personal communication). We are unaware of any
census data on the southern Rift Valley lion population or the
severity of human–lion conﬂict beyond this time frame. However,
historical evidence suggests that the Maasai hunted lions only in
response to speciﬁc livestock depredation events and during tradi-
tional lion hunts by young Maasai warriors as a cultural rite of pas-
sage (Tarayia, 2004). Though traditional lion hunts are now illegal
in Kenya, we suspect that many of the conditions that have al-
lowed the Maasai to co-occur with abundant wildlife, including
lions, for centuries (Marshall, 1990), may still hold true in the
southern Rift Valley.
From 2008 to 2011, we studied the lion population on Olkira-
matian and Shompole Maasai Group Ranches in the southern Rift
Valley of Kenya with two objectives. First, we radio-collared P1
individual from every resident pride and male coalition to deter-
mine absolute density by counting recognized individuals. Second,
we quantiﬁed changes in lion space use in response to seasonal
movements of the Olkiramatian and Shompole community from
the east side of a permanent river to the west side of the river,
which includes a community-managed Conservation Area (CA).
The CA, designated in 2001, allows the community to implement
wildlife and land management policies at the local (rather than
central government) level and collect fees from tourists with reve-
nues shared by the community (Tarayia, 2004). Lastly, we collected
conﬂict reports in collaboration with local Maasai natural resource
assessors to determine the extent of human–carnivore conﬂicts in
We tested three hypotheses regarding potential lion responses
to seasonal movements of people to areas west of the river during
the dry season. Speciﬁcally, we hypothesized that (1) lions would
maintain a threshold distance from occupied human settlements
to avoid direct contact and consequent persecution, (2) lions would
increase their use of the CA and dense habitats (which provide pro-
tective cover) compared to times when people only inhabited areas
east of the river, a pattern that would result in low rates of conﬂict,
and (3) a spatial shift by lions would limit their access to areas near
the permanent river and decrease access to prey (thus carrying
2. Materials and methods
2.1. Study area
This study was conducted in the southern Rift Valley of Kenya
on the Olkiramatian and Shompole Maasai Group Ranches from
January 2008 to February 2011. This semi-arid rangeland consists
primarily of open and closed bushlands and Acacia woodlands,
and patches of open grassland. The area receives low annual rain-
fall (400–600 mm/year), primarily from March–May and Novem-
ber–December. Rainfall was well below average (327 mm) in
2009. The permanent Ewaso Nyiro River bisects the study area,
ﬂowing from north to south into the Shompole swamp and then
into Lake Natron in northern Tanzania (Fig. 1).
A relatively low density Maasai community (10 people/km
inhabits Olkiramatian and Shompole. This community subsists pri-
marily on their livestock, which occur at moderate to high densities
(sheep/goats: 59.1 ± 17.0 individuals/km
, cattle: 15.8 ± 5.7 indi-
)(Schuette, 2012). Despite increasing land subdivision
and farmland production on surrounding rangelands (Homewood
et al., 2009), this region is unfenced in all directions. With the
exception of the Rift Valley escarpment directly to the east, Olkira-
matian and Shompole are part of a contiguous trans-boundary arid
rangeland ecosystem encompassing >8000 km
that extends across
southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. Locally, the Olkiramatian
and Shompole landscape is partitioned into four land uses (Fig. 1),
including (from west to east) (1) a community Conservation Area
(CA) that is normally unoccupied but can be used as a daytime live-
stock grazing refuge under drought conditions, (2) a buffer area that
is occupied seasonally by Maasai and grazed by livestock during the
dry season (September–March), (3) a grazing area that is season-
ally grazed in the wet season (March–September) with no settle-
ments, and a (4) permanent settlement area that people and
livestock occupy more consistently throughout the year. Here, we
focus on the CA and Buffer land use types on the west side of the riv-
er, which span an area of 250 km
. Though lions do occur on the east
side of the river in the grazing and permanent settlement areas,
their estimated occupancy levels were low compared to the west
side of the river (Schuette et al., in press). Decisions on when and
where to settle and graze their livestock are made by a committee
of Maasai community members. Livestock herds are always accom-
panied by one or more herdsman and a guard dog during daytime
hours (0600–1800). At night, livestock are kept within a thornbrush
corral positioned at the center of each Maasai settlement to protect
their herds from predation.
The site holds diverse large herbivore and carnivore communi-
ties. Densities of the ﬁve most common native ungulates [zebra
(Equus quagga), Grant’s gazelle (Nanger granti), wildebeest (Conno-
chaetes taurinus), impala (Aepyceros melampus), and Maasai giraffe
(Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi)] are comparable to many GPA
populations, despite being outnumbered 3–1 by livestock
(74.9 ± 22.7 livestock/km
, 28.2 ± 9.2 native ungulates/km
ette, 2012). The site holds P21 carnivore species, including all
apex predators: lion (P. leo), spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), leop-
ard (Panthera pardus), cheetah (A. jubatus), and African wild dog (L.
pictus)(Schuette et al., in press).
P. Schuette et al. / Biological Conservation 157 (2013) 148–154 149
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2.2. Sampling design
We used radiotelemetry to monitor lions within the Olkirama-
tian and Shompole Group Ranches to determine local lion popula-
tion density and space use patterns. We ﬁxed Telonics (Mesa, AZ,
USA) MOD-400 VHF transmitters with butyl belting collars to 1–
2 adult female lions per resident pride and 1 collar per resident
male coalition. In total, we deployed six radio collars among three
resident prides and two male coalitions. One additional resident
pride and two male coalitions occurred in the area but were not
collared because they were too shy to approach. All lions were
immobilized using a medetomidine/ketamine combination and re-
versed with atipamezole (West et al., 2007).
We followed radio-collared groups in a 4WD vehicle using a
VHF-antenna (Telonics) and handheld receiver (Communications
Specialists, Orange, CA, USA). Lion follows were conducted primar-
ily during the night and early morning hours (1800–0859 h) to
document group size and composition and space use patterns in
periods when lions were most active. All lions in each pride and
coalition were uniquely identiﬁed by photographing unique whis-
ker patterns, ear notches, and facial scars (Pennycuick and Rudnai,
1970). We used red-ﬁltered spotlights and dimmed headlights and
followed at a distance that minimized disturbance to lions and po-
tential prey animals, usually P100 m. Lions rarely reacted to the
vehicle, and we stopped immediately if we detected any reaction.
(Note that any effect of our presence would be expected to affect
all of the data, and thus would not explain the effects of land use
that we observed.) We attempted to locate and follow each
radio-collared group at least once per week. During each group
follow, we recorded a GPS location of the radio-collared group at
5–10 min intervals when lions were actively moving, every
15 min when stationary, at every transition from stationary to ac-
tive, and when speciﬁc hunting behaviors (not discussed here) oc-
curred. On each occasion, we recorded only one GPS location per
group, so that the group (not the individual) is the unit for spatial
analysis. We periodically located radio-collared groups during the
daytime hours (0900–1759 h) to document daytime resting loca-
tions. All daytime locations were spaced a minimum of 24 h apart
to ensure we collected only one daytime location per group per
At each GPS ﬁx, we recorded the habitat type, classiﬁed as open
(open grassland or low-density bushland/woodland) or closed
(high density bushland/woodland and riparian areas) and weather
conditions (e.g. temperature, wind speed, cloud cover). We used
geographic information system software (ArcGIS 9.2) to categorize
each lion location as either in the CA or buffer area. We also deter-
mined the distance (meters) between each lion location and the
permanent river, and the distance to the nearest active human set-
tlement, which were mapped monthly (an appropriate scale). As
indicated in Fig. 1, only a portion of settlements were occupied
by people and livestock throughout the year, and thus, it was
important in our analysis to indicate which settlements were ac-
tively used each month. We determined the potential inﬂuence
of local prey (combined zebra, Grant’s gazelle, wildebeest, impala,
giraffe) on lion spatial patterns by relating ungulate densities to
each lion location. We estimated ungulate densities with system-
atic ground counts along line transects. Every 6 weeks, a team of
three observers surveyed by vehicle sixteen transects (8 east and
8 west of the river) spaced at 4-km intervals. We recorded the dis-
tance (meters) and bearing of all native and domestic ungulates
Fig. 1. Lion locations (black circles) relative to human settlements (white triangles). The ﬁgure at left shows lion locations when people were primarily settled east of the
permanent river. The ﬁgure at right shows lions locations when people were settled west of the permanent Ewaso Nyiro River. Dark shading represents a gradient of dense
vegetation from open (light color) to closed (dark). The Ewaso Nyiro is the only permanent river: all other watercourses were seasonally dry.
150 P. Schuette et al. / Biological Conservation 157 (2013) 148–154
Author's personal copy
encountered, and estimated densities using distance sampling
(Buckland, 2001; Chandler, 2012; Schuette, 2012). We used only
the subset of lion locations (55%) for which we had a local prey
density estimate from recent (63 weeks) distance sampling on a
nearby (62 km) line-transect.
A team of eight local Maasai Resource Assessors, which were
employed by the South Rift Association of Landowners (SORALO),
a Maasai non-proﬁt organization, collected carnivore conﬂict
reports. These reports were collected during monthly livelihood
surveys of Olkiramatian and Shompole residents to monitor
socio-economic and ecological conditions that inﬂuence Maasai
livelihoods. As part of these surveys, Resource Assessors recorded
all incidents of human–carnivore conﬂict, which were deﬁned as
an attack by a carnivore on their cattle, sheep, or goats that lead
to an injury or death. In addition, each Resource Assessor was
stationed within their home region, which allowed them to also
record conﬂict reports opportunistically. We examined conﬂict re-
ports that accumulated over 3 years (2008–2010) as an index of
human–carnivore conﬂict in the area.
2.3. Statistical analysis
We quantiﬁed lion density from a count of all uniquely identi-
ﬁed individuals (>1 year old, excluding cubs) in all resident lion
groups in our focal study area (250 km
). We provide a total count
of lions from the ﬁnal year of our study in 2010 when we were con-
ﬁdent that all resident groups and individuals had been identiﬁed.
We restricted our analysis to lion groups for which we had data on
movements when people lived on the east and west side of the riv-
er (four groups).
We tested for responses of ﬁve dependent variables (attributes
of lion locations) that we hypothesized might change in relation to
human movements (i.e. people living east or west of the river was
the independent variable for all analyses). We pooled data from
lion groups across the 3 years of our study due to a relatively small
sample size that prevented us from testing for differences in re-
sponses by year or by lion group. For each test, we used either a
generalized linear mixed model (GLMM) or a linear mixed effects
model with a random intercept (Zuur et al., 2009), with each ‘fol-
low’ of a lion group as the random effect in both cases. We used
these mixed models because the attributes of locations for a partic-
ular group on a given evening (i.e. group follow) exhibited obvious
positive spatial autocorrelation within a given follow. In other
words, the habitat used by a lion group at one time is usually
similar to the habitat used a short time later. Instead of using an
approach that considered every location an independent observa-
tion (potentially pseudoreplicating) or discarding all locations
except one per group follow (potentially discarding valid informa-
tion), we simply incorporated autocorrelation in the model struc-
ture (Zuur et al., 2009). We used GLMMs with a binomially
distributed response variable to examine (1) the proportion of lion
locations in closed vs. open habitats and (2) the proportion of lion
locations in the CA. Using linear mixed effects models, with a ran-
dom effect on the intercept to account for autocorrelation among
ﬁxes within an observation period, we examined (3) the average
distance between a lion group and the permanent river, (4) the
average distance of lion groups to the nearest active human settle-
ment, and (5) the average nighttime prey density for lion locations.
Prior to analysis, we examined potential correlations among our
ﬁve dependent variables. The three continuous dependent vari-
ables were weakly correlated (r-values ranged from 0.18 to
0.05) and the two categorical dependent variables were indepen-
= 33.8, p< 0.001). We also compared the mean value for
each continuous dependent variable within levels of the two cate-
gorical dependent variables. Five of six comparisons indicated that
the two variables were associated (p< 0.03 in ﬁve comparisons),
except that prey density was similar in the CA and buffer area
= 0.5, p= 0.633). Thus, lion movements that alter the land
use that they occupy are also likely to cause changes in distance
to water or distance to occupied human settlements. For all analy-
ses, we used Bonferroni adjustment for multiple comparisons to
reduce the potential for Type I error (Ott and Longnecker, 2001).
We unambiguously identiﬁed 34 lions (22 F, 12 M, excluding
cubs and individuals <1 year) in an area of 250 km
, providing a
density of 0.136 individuals/km
. Though this density pertains to
a relatively small area, it is comparable to or higher than many lion
populations in well-known GPAs (Table 1). The 34 observed lions
comprised 4 resident prides composed of 3–9 females (mean = 5.5,
sd = 3.0), and 4 male coalitions of 1–2 individuals. One pride con-
tained 3 sub-adult males. With the exception of a coalition of 3
males that moved into the area in 2010 from an unknown source
population, all male coalitions were clearly associated with 1–2
prides by the conclusion of our study. Though we did not include
individuals <1 year in our total count, all resident lion prides had
P1 cub (<1 year) in 2010.
3.2. Space use patterns
We recorded a total of 2084 GPS locations across the 4 focal
groups that met criteria for inclusion in our analyses (see Meth-
ods). Of these, we recorded 1987 locations at night across 233
group follows and 97 daytime resting locations. However, we re-
moved duplicate entries of GPS locations that did not provide
new spatial information, such as when a group was resting or tran-
sitioning from resting to moving. This reduced dataset consisted of
1107 unique nighttime GPS locations across 233 lion group follows
and 59 unique daytime resting locations.
Results from GLMMs (land use, habitat) and linear mixed models
(distance to water, distance to settlements, prey density) indicated
that the attributes of lion locations nested within a group follow
were almost completely autocorrelated, and thus, each follow was
considered the sampling unit. Recording multiple locations within
a group follow did not provide any additional explanatory power
in this analysis (though it might in other circumstances).
The probability of lions being in the CA was ﬁve times higher
when people were settled on the west side of the river (0.89, 95%
CI = 0.70–0.96) compared to periods with people on the east side
of the river (0.17, 95% CI = 0.08–0.32, t
= 5.92, p< 0.001) (Figs.
1and 2a). This result supports the hypothesis that lions utilized
the CA to avoid close interaction with occupied human settle-
ments. The probability of lions occurring in closed habitats (i.e.
dense cover) increased by 44% when people were on the west side
of the river (0.85, 95% CI = 0.72–0.93) compared to periods with
people on the east side of the river (0.59, 95% CI = 0.46–0.72,
= 3.28, p= 0.001) (Fig. 2b).
The mean distance of lions from the permanent river increased
by 72%, from 1735.7 ± 132.9 m, when people were living on the
east side of the river to 2998.7 ± 190.9 m when people lived on
the west (t
= 6.62, p< 0.001) (Fig. 3c). This shift is related to in-
creased lion use of the CA when people inhabited the west side of
the river because the CA is farther from the permanent river
(Fig. 1). Although lions moved away from people, they did not fully
compensate for shifts in human settlement. Lions were found at an
average distance of 4779.0 ± 151.8 m from occupied settlements
when people lived on the east side of the river. This distance de-
creased to 3046.7 m ± 218.1 m when people moved to the west
P. Schuette et al. / Biological Conservation 157 (2013) 148–154 151
Author's personal copy
side of the river (t
=7.94, p< 0.001) (Fig. 2d). Lastly, lions used
areas with similar prey density when people were on the east and
west side of the river (t
= 1.21, p= 0.230). The average prey den-
sity when people were on the east was 29.5 ± 1.6 prey animals/km
and 32.9 ± 2.7 prey animals/km
when people were on the west
Lion preference for the CA when people were settled on the
west side of the river was similar for night locations and daytime
resting locations (
= 0.65, p= 0.420) (Fig. 3). This result indicates
that lions took refuge in the CA both day and night when people
inhabited the west side of the river, even though people were ac-
tive only during the day.
3.3. Carnivore conﬂict
Spotted hyenas were the most common livestock predator
(n= 38 [54%] of 71 total incidents collected from 2008 to 2010), fol-
lowed by leopard (28%, n= 20), lion (10%, n= 7), cheetah (4%, n= 3),
and wild dog (4%, n= 3). Despite these issues, to our knowledge, no
large carnivores were killed locally during the course of this study
by local residents or by the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Lion population density estimates in Olkiramatian and Shompole Group Ranches relative to Government Protected Areas in Kenya and important lion populations elsewhere in
Location Study area (km
) Lion density (individuals/km
Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Tanzania) 250 0.21–0.40 Hanby and Bygott (1995) and Packer et al. (2011)
Maasai Mara National Reserve (Kenya) 1530 0.176–0.352 Ogutu and Dublin (2002)
Selous Game Reserve (Tanzania) 1000 0.13–0.16 Creel and Creel (1997) and Spong (2002)
Serengeti National Park (Tanzania) 2700 0.110–0.180 Mosser et al. (2009) and Packer et al. (2011)
Olkiramatian/Shompole Group Ranches (Kenya) 250 0.136 Schuette et al. (this study)
Kruger National Park (South Africa) 4280 0.100 Mills and Gorman (1997)
Koyiaki Group Ranch (Kenya) 1120 0.046 Ogutu et al. (2005)
Tsavo National Park (Kenya) 690 0.040 Patterson et al. (2004)
Hwange National Park (Zimbabwe) 5884 0.027 Loveridge et al. (2007)
Fig. 2. Changes in the attributes of lion locations in a comparison of periods with people settled east or west of the permanent river. The probability of lion occurrence (use)
and 95% CI in (a) the Conservation Area and (b) dense cover when people were settled east or west of the permanent river. The average distance and 95% CI in meters to (c) the
permanent river and (d) the nearest occupied human settlement when people were settled east or west of the permanent river. (e) The average prey density for lion locations
and 95% CI when people were settled east or west of the permanent river.
Fig. 3. The proportion of lion daytime resting locations and nighttime locations that
occurred in the Conservation Area when the Maasai community was settled east or
west of the permanent river.
152 P. Schuette et al. / Biological Conservation 157 (2013) 148–154
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The Olkiramatian and Shompole Group Ranches support a lion
density of 0.136 individuals/km
(34 lions/250 km
) a density ﬁg-
ure that is comparable to GPAs such as Serengeti National Park (Ta-
ble 1). This is an unexpected result given that this lion population
occurs in a landscape situated relatively far from any GPA that also
supports a dense population of livestock (Schuette, 2012). At the
landscape level, high prey availability, seasonal human land use,
and livestock husbandry practices that include herdsmen that
oversee herds during the day and corral livestock at night, likely
contribute to low rates of conﬂict and limit the need for lethal con-
trol of lions and other apex carnivores. These conditions distin-
guish Olkiramatian and Shompole from other East African
rangelands that have been subdivided and converted to farms
(Homewood et al., 2009). This shift in land use policy has increased
the scope for conﬂict between lions and other apex carnivores with
pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities. These conﬂicts have
led to subsequent reductions or elimination of local lion popula-
tions across several of these altered landscapes (Hazzah et al.,
2009; Ogutu et al., 2005; Patterson et al., 2004).
Fundamentally, high apex carnivore density and low rates of
conﬂict across an area that contains abundant livestock is increas-
ingly rare, particularly in East African rangelands. Our data, though
limited in scale, indicated that lions exhibited spatial variation in
their use of the CA and dense cover in relation to movements of
people and livestock. These patterns were observed during the
day and night, which suggests that lions were shifting their move-
ment patterns at a seasonal rather than diurnal level. Overall, a
pattern that indicated lions shifted their spatial patterns in relation
to movements of people and livestock is a unique result in East
African rangelands. We anticipate these results will provide insight
into patterns that might promote human–carnivore coexistence
across similar landscapes where land subdivision and conversion
to farmland is being considered.
Lions’ increased use of dense cover in response to humans fol-
lows a pattern that has been observed in other apex carnivores.
For example, a spotted hyena clan increased their use of dense
shrublands when livestock densities increased along the border
of the Maasai Mara National Reserve (Boydston et al., 2003). In-
creased use of dense cover by lions supports anecdotal inferences
from other carnivore studies in human-modiﬁed landscapes (Fun-
ston, personal communication), suggesting that lions exposed to
anthropogenic pressures are cryptic and nocturnal compared to
GPA populations. In comparison to populations in GPAs, lions on
this study site are extremely difﬁcult to locate or observe without
radiotelemetry, even though the population density is high and
observation conditions are good. In sum, the availability of dense
cover is likely an important feature of this landscape that provides
a refuge from potential encounters with people and livestock. On a
broader scale, the existence of a local Conservation Area likely re-
duced conﬂict in the same manner.
The average distance between lions and active human settle-
ments declined 36% when people moved to the west side of the riv-
er. Despite a clear shift in their distribution (Fig. 1), lions lived in
substantially closer proximity to people when people settled west
of the river. It is possible that lions could not move far enough to
maintain constant separation from people without experiencing
offsetting costs (e.g. increased distance to water, reduced prey den-
sity). It is also possible lions simply did not range near people
when people were settled on the east because prey availability
was lower there compared to the west side of the river. Thus, lions
had little incentive to move to the east of the river. It is also possi-
ble that resident lions on the east side of the river prevented focal
lion groups from moving across the river. Though this is possible
because we did not monitor individual lion groups on the east side
of the river, we consider this explanation unlikely due to overall
low lion occupancy in this area (Schuette et al., in press). Regard-
less of the reason, people and lions came into closer contact when
humans settled on the west of the river, which had the potential to
increase encounters and conﬂicts. However, no increase in human–
carnivore conﬂict was reported and no lions were killed due to
conﬂict. Mobility across an open landscape allowed lions to shift
their activity into the CA and densely vegetated areas to avoid peo-
ple and livestock when they were in close proximity.
The average distance of lions to the permanent river nearly dou-
bled (1.7) when people moved to the west side of the river during
the dry season months. This result can be explained at least in part
due to increased use of the CA, which is relatively far from the riv-
er. However, the observed pattern is atypical for lions because they
(like many stalking predators) are typically attracted to riparian
areas near permanent rivers and water sources, particularly during
the dry season (Mosser et al., 2009; Spong, 2002). Lion attraction to
riparian habitat may also be affected directly by access to water it-
self, although lions are capable of surviving on the water provided
by their prey (Schaller, 1972). Though lions and their ungulate prey
have access to small springs ﬂowing down from the Rift Valley
escarpment into the CA and the dense woodlands supported by
these springs, it is possible that displacement from areas near
the permanent river was a cost of avoiding humans and livestock.
Despite this spatial shift, woodlands in the CA provided a dry sea-
son foraging refuge for non-migratory populations of zebra and
wildebeest, impala, Cape buffalo, and lesser kudu, which lions
preyed upon during the dry season (Schuette, unpublished data).
Thus it is possible that lions were actually attracted to the CA be-
cause of dry season prey availability, rather than a retreat from hu-
man settlements. Regardless of the causal mechanisms, we
observed similar prey densities at lion locations when people
inhabited the east and west sides of the river, demonstrating that
lions were still able to maintain both adequate separation from
people and adequate access to prey (Hopcraft et al., 2005).
Though our focal study area was relatively small (250 km
Olkiramatian and Shompole area is linked with a larger landscape
) that includes several GPAs, including the Maasai Mara
National Reserve and Amboseli National Park in Kenya, and may
extend to Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks in Tanzania.
To date, very little quantitative data exists for much of this
trans-boundary region, particularly for extensive mixed-use range-
lands that are undergoing or are threatened by land use changes
(Homewood et al., 2009). We do not know whether the Olkirama-
tian and Shompole lion population is representative of the entire
region, or whether we happened to observe a locally high density
population across a landscape with low overall lion densities.
Future research should investigate to what extent this population
is representative of the area, to what extent it is linked to other lion
populations in regional GPAs and other mixed-use rangelands
(Pusey and Packer, 1987), and test the generality of our inferences
about the factors that promoted high lion density and low conﬂict
with humans on this site.
In recent decades, quantitative evidence and public opinion
suggest that conﬂict-prone carnivores may be incompatible with
most current livestock production practices. However, we found
that an apex carnivore cannot only persist alongside people and
livestock, but that this apex carnivore, its common native prey,
and livestock all co-occurred at relatively high densities. Identify-
ing generalizable attributes of this landscape and local human land
P. Schuette et al. / Biological Conservation 157 (2013) 148–154 153
Author's personal copy
uses that have allowed this to occur, can at a minimum provide a
starting point to address carnivore conservation and management
outside of GPAs, for which little or no data currently exists, partic-
ularly for species that occur in regions where livestock production
is a predominant land use strategy.
We propose ﬁve landscape features and human land uses prac-
tices observed in Olkiramatian and Shompole that should be eval-
uated in other systems. First, an unfenced landscape may promote
co-occurrence of apex carnivores with people and livestock. An
open landscape may allow people, livestock, native ungulates,
and carnivores the ability to make spatial adjustments in response
to seasonal weather patterns, environmental change, ecological
processes, and anthropogenic pressures, and thus avoid conﬂict.
Second, heterogeneity in habitats and land use provides critical ref-
uges from competitive pressures for ungulate prey and potentially
dangerous interactions for large carnivores. Third, seasonal varia-
tion in livestock grazing practices across a set of land uses may
promote co-occurrence of livestock and native ungulate popula-
tions. These conditions may provide sufﬁcient native prey for apex
carnivores to avoid preying upon livestock. Fourth, corralling live-
stock in secure structures at night may reduce carnivore conﬂict.
People and livestock are absent from the Olkiramatian and Shom-
pole landscape for 12 out of every 24 h cycle, which reduces the
potential for nighttime attacks on livestock and may reduce inter-
ference competition between livestock and native ungulate prey
populations. Fifth, a relatively small Conservation Area set aside
for conservation purposes and livestock grazing during extreme
drought may facilitate co-occurrence of people and apex
carnivores. Designating these Conservation Areas may provide
important habitat for wildlife that may also beneﬁt ranching com-
munities by providing a buffer between conﬂict-prone carnivores
and their livestock, and providing a ‘grass bank’ that can be ac-
cessed during drought conditions. None of these conclusions
should be unique to lions, and we suggest that they might guide
general policies to conserve large carnivores outside of GPAs.
We thank the Kenya Ministry of Science and Technology, the
Kenya Wildlife Service, and the South Rift community for permis-
sion to conduct our research. All animal handling procedures were
approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at
Montana State University and the Kenya Wildlife Service. We
thank J. Kamanga, S. Russell, and D. Western for their coordination
efforts, and E. Christianson, M. Kapoli, A. Kuseyo, A. Matole, P.
Moikinyo, L. Mpukere, J. Njonjo, P. Oltubulai, C. Schuette, and the
Maasai Resource Assessors for their assistance in the ﬁeld. This re-
search was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Cincin-
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