Managing charismatic carnivores in
small areas: large felids in South Africa
Sam M. Ferreira1*& Markus Hofmeyr2
1Scientific Services, SANParks, P.O. Box 202, Skukuza, 1350 South Africa
2Veterinary Wildlife Services, SANParks, Skukuza, 1350, South Africa
Received 2 January 2013. Accepted 3 September 2013
Large carnivores are key foci for conservationists, tour operators and hunters alike. They
provide revenue-generating opportunities, but also can be keystone species in conservation
areas, influencing the maintenance of biological diversity. They often degrade livelihoods
of people when coming into conflict with livestock land-uses. We acknowledge these
challenges specifically for cases where large carnivores are present in small areas and
propose an alternative strategy to the traditional carrying capacity approaches, directed at
managing the effects of large carnivores.We advocate an approach where managers of small
areas mimic natural social dynamics such as coalition tenure, density dependent changes in
litter size, age at first birth and birth intervals, as well as subadult dispersal.This assists with
achievement of population and evolutionary targets through a process-based approach
mimicking drivers of variance in social groups. Such an applied conservation husbandry
approach may have robust outcomes that do not compromise conservation values.
Key words: African lion, cheetah, small reserves, social dynamics, conservation husbandry.
The restoration and maintenance of predation is
often a key aim for conservation agencies wishing
to achieve ecosystem objectives (Dalerum
2008). The challenges of maintaining ecological
processes that involve large carnivores are com-
plicated by expectations and attitudes of stake-
2003). These range from
positive, such as a general assumption that the
presence of large carnivores enhances a tourism
2008), to negative (Treves
& Karanth 2003), such as expectations and atti-
tudes towards livestock losses as a result of carni-
vores spilling over into landscapes abutting
protected areas (Inskip & Zimmermann 2009). In
some instances, populations of large carnivores
may have ranges largely outside protected areas
The ecosystem management paradigm (Bocking
1994), adhered to in some instances by conserva-
tion agencies (Rogers 2003), recognizes ecologi-
cal processes as key drivers of how the larger
mammalian herbivores influence plant community
structure and function in ecosystems (Gordon
2004). This implies top-down regulation of
plant community structure and function. However,
it is likely that both top-down, through predation,
and bottom-up, through nutrient quality of vegeta-
tion, may regulate herbivore dynamics (Turkington
2009). The absence of large predators may thus
pose some constraints on conservationists wish-
ing to restore key ecological processes associated
with herbivores and how predation influences
In South Africa, lions (
) and cheetahs
) have disappeared from most
of their historical range (Nowell & Jackson 1996;
2007). Lion populations survive in
Kruger National Park, Kgalagadi Transfrontier
Park and the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier
Conservation Area including farmland (Nowell &
Jackson 1996). Cheetahs also occur in these pro-
tected areas and associated surrounds as well as
on farmland across the North West and Limpopo
provinces of South Africa (Marnewick
Reintroductions of both these species (Hayward
2007; Funston 2008; Davies-Mostert
Slotow & Hunter 2009) since the early 1990s into
small, fenced areas including different types of
administrative and legislative land-use designa-
tions such as private reserves, conservancies,
protected areas such as TFCAs, national and pro-
vincial parks, have resulted in several free-ranging
populations in small areas (<1000 km2) isolated
from each other.
Recovery of ecosystems following disturbances
is not haphazard and species usually colonize
South African Journal of Wildlife Research 44(1): 00–00 (April 2014)
*To whom correspondence shoud be adressed.
degraded or disturbed areas in predictable
of carnivore assemblages should therefore also
not be haphazard. Succession theory predicts
that smaller generalist herbivores will colonize a
disturbed area first, followed by larger herbivores
2001). The relevant predators
specializing on each herbivore assemblage (see
Owen-Smith & Mills 2008) should follow a similar
trend. Active carnivore restoration, like that prac-
ticed in South Africa (Hayward
2007; Funston 2008;
2009; Slotow & Hunter
2009), may thus better succeed in establishing
dynamic predator–prey relations if such a coloni-
zation sequence is mimicked through reintro-
2000). Smaller carnivores
should thus be reintroduced first.
An additional challenge most pertinent in small
reserves is the consequences for ecological
(Hayward & Kerley 2009) and genetic (Trinkel
rity of populations of large carnivores and prey
alike. Most carnivore species will breed success-
fully if released into a fenced reserve with high
densities of predator-naïve prey (Hayward
2007). In addition, confinement influences where
carnivores and prey can move, which can alter
the way they interact (van Dyk & Slotow 2004;
Hayward & Kerley 2009). Furthermore, their influ-
ences on ecosystems as a result of their top-down
regulating roles in ecosystems (Owen-Smith &
Mills 2008) can deplete the prey base in a non-sus-
tainable way in spatially limited environments
(Slotow & Hunter 2009). In some instances regular
prey introductions are necessary to sustain a
carnivore presence (
2009). Even though the response to a large carni-
vore introduction may be seen as a compensatory
drop in prey abundance, spatially restricted and
fenced environments limit the recovery of prey
species as no opportunity for immigration to take
place exists unless mimicked artificially (Hayward
& Kerley 2009). Consequently, restricted areas
may often have limited spatial and temporal varia-
tion in predation risk, vulnerability and fear land-
scapes. These then lead to a disruption of dynamic
predator–prey relationships that may undermine
Small spatially restricted or fenced areas may
also experience meso-predator releases because
of the absence of large carnivores. Competitive
interactions with large carnivores (Ritchie & John-
son 2009) may limit spatial and temporal dynamics
of the smaller carnivores. This has two conse-
quences when large predators are absent, meso-
predator release may result in spill-over effects
that accentuate human-wildlife conflict in areas
abutting small restricted areas (Prugh
Secondly, upon introduction of larger carnivores,
persistence of rarer small carnivores may be
challenged through meso-predator suppression
(Ritchie & Johnson 2009).
In addition to the above ecological challenges,
charismatic carnivore reintroductions are often
token ecological actions because the primary
motive is the accrual of benefits from large carni-
vore eco-tourism (Kerley
2008). This is defendable for privately owned
areas, but is questionable when introductions
directed at improving a tourism product take place
in protected areas. The National Environmental
Protected Areas Act (Act No. 57 of 2003) of South
Africa provides for such activities as long as the
ecological integrity of the protected area is not
jeopardized. The disruption of prey-related pro-
cesses when confined in small areas may be
defined as illegal and in contravention of the act.
Managers of protected areas are thus particularly
accountable for dealing with disrupted predator–
prey relations when large carnivores have been
introduced into small areas.
These observations and constraints have led to
carnivore management approaches for small
areas that define some or other ‘carrying capacity’
of predators based on available prey (Lindsey
However, developments within the field of wildlife
management have seen the adoption of a conser-
vation paradigm that acknowledges the flux of
nature and importance of spatio-temporal patchi-
ness and habitat heterogeneity (Stalmans
2001). Such patchiness should also be reflected in
predation risk, vulnerability and fear landscapes.
Consequently the shift away from the ‘carrying
capacity’ concept in conservation management
2009) to one that considers the
dynamic equilibrium and change inherent within
such complex systems (Wu & Loucks 1995) has
been adopted by some conservation agencies
Rogers 2003) in order to manage ecosystems
to meet biodiversity and other conservation objec-
Here we provide an alternative conceptual model
to the carrying capacity approaches adhered to at
2 South African Journal of Wildlife Research Vol. 44, No. 1, April 2014
2011). Our approach hinges on
mimicking natural social dynamics. We do not
compare carrying capacity approaches with the
proposed alternative primarily because our
approach is embedded within a system of flux
management philosophy (Rogers 2003). Carrying
capacity approaches imposes non-flux philoso-
phy. We use lions (
) and cheetahs
) to illustrate the potential appli-
cation and discuss the consequences and pitfalls
that social management of carnivores may pose.
Large carnivore abundances and densities are
associated with the quantity and spatial distribution
of prey biomass (van Orsdol
2007). This relationship
is influenced by the variable social nature of most
large carnivores (
Bertram 1973). Social factors
may limit minimum home range sizes and often
reduce survival and fecundity. Free ranging carni-
vore populations in large spatially non-restricted
areas are often variable and fluctuate in abun-
dance, but seldom are long-term trends positive or
2005, but see Vucetitch &
Peterson 2004).One consequence of fenced con-
fined areas is an increase in the likelihood that
individuals may socially become more tolerant of
each other as is the case when unrelated lions are
placed in a small boma (M. Hofmeyr, unpubl. data).
In small areas spatial restrictions may thus remove
one of the key mechanisms of population regula-
tion of large carnivores,
Conceptually, management of large carnivores
in spatially restricted areas could focus on manag-
ing social relations, which is one of the key mecha-
nisms of carnivore population regulation (Bertram
1973). This may ultimately also drive variability in
predation risk, vulnerability and fear landscapes,
rather than a population approach with fixed
‘carrying capacity’ as was historically the case
2007). Given this context, most
small protected areas and private reserves in
South Africa are only capable of dealing with one
or two social groups of a particular species of large
carnivores in the various management units.
Carnivore management in restricted areas may
achieve better outcomes by focusing on social
units rather than managing a carnivore population.
Solitary and small carnivores typically provide
fewer management challenges.
Managing social relations contrasts starkly with
the population approaches typically adopted for
large herbivores (Gordon
2004). Social fac-
tors may significantly be important in regulating dy-
namics through effects on survival and fecundity
(Funston 2001). Their resource needs necessitate
large individual home ranges, which are often
vigorously defended, and makes them more sus-
ceptible to spatial restriction (
2005). They have rapid impacts on their resources
and other smaller carnivores (Ritchie & Johnson
2009), but resources can also recover rapidly
2010). They have short life histories
(Gittleman 1986), which mean that they have
inherent demographic vigour to respond fast to
management interventions. And finally, managing
carnivore social units by mimicking social dynamics
focuses on the biological mechanisms (see
2011) that are most likely disrupting
predator–prey relationships and reducing genetic
Our conceptual model thus suggests that con-
servationists mimic behaviour and dynamics of a
social group. This means mimicking sex-specific
dispersal events, dominance hierarchies, socially
induced reductions in birth rates, socially induced
mortality events and variance in these variables.
Each of these varies in free-ranging large carni-
vore populations. Such variability should be part
of the mimicking of social dynamics in spatially
restricted areas and is likely to produce heteroge-
neity in group sizes as well as temporal and spatial
predation pressures that are more likely to induce
persistent dynamic predator–prey relations.
Female lions conceive as early as 32 months
(Hunter 1998) and given their gestation of 14–15
weeks may have their first litter when between
40 and 60 months old (Smuts
1978). In small
confined populations lions tend to breed at younger
ages (Hunter 1998). In large free-ranging popula-
tions litter sizes vary from one to six (Rudnai 1973;
Packer & Pusey 1987; Patterson 1988), but gener-
ally converges onto an average of three (Smuts
1978; Hunter 1998).
Birth intervals depend on whether cubs are
raised to maturity. New litters are born every 20 to
24 months (Packer & Pusey 1987; Hunter 1998).
When litters are lost, intervals range between four
and six months (Packer & Pusey 1987).
Cub mortality is high (Orford
ever, in environments like Kruger National Park, up
to 80% of cubs observed survived the first year
(P. Funston, pers. obs.). Cub mortality increases
Ferreira & Hofmeyr: Managing charismatic carnivores in small areas 3
when male coalitions take over tenure of a pride
2008). Subadults and adults have
higher survival rates than cubs based on data
compared between Kruger demographic surveys
(Ferreira & Funston 2010) and long-term studies in
the Serengeti (Packer
To mimic social dynamics for females, five
management options are available:1) increase the
age at first reproduction using contraception of
subadult females; or 2) establish longer intervals
between births using contraception of adult
females (Munson 2006; Bertschinger
3) reduce age specific fecundity through reduced
litter sizes using unilateral tube-tying of fallopian
1984); 4) mimic female
dispersal by removing as well as introducing
subadult females; 5) mimic higher death rates of
old females by removing the oldest females in the
pride. Unilateral tube-tying of fallopian tubes may
require experimental evaluation and clinical
improvement before implementation. A sensible
target is the maintenance of variance in the
number of adult females comprising a pride
centring on that observed in unrestricted free-
ranging populations. This converges onto four
although a range of two to 11 has been noted in
several places (Schaller 1972a; Smuts 1976;
Stander 1991; Funston 2001).Managers may thus
use modelling approaches (Quadling & Starfield
2002) to define a mixture of the five options to
achieve an average pride size of four.
Male survival rates are typically lower than those
of females (Ferreira & Funston 2010), but this
discrepancy dissipates when in small confined
areas (Slotow & Hunter 2009). Three manage-
ment options are available for males: 1) Mimic
male dispersal through removal and introductions
of subadults; 2) mimic pride take-overs – tenure is
on average three years (Funston
and 3) mimic higher death rates of old males by
removing the oldest males. Managers can again
use modelling approaches (Whitman
2007) to achieve at least coalition
tenure of three years and allowing each coalition to
have only one breeding opportunity. No active
switches of coalitions may be required if subadult
male introduction and the oldest male removals
are staggered. A pride take-over should then follow
naturally, with subsequent consequences for cub
mortality.Tolerance of older cubs may be possible
(M. Hofmeyr, pers. obs.) so introduction of new
males could be planned at times when females
have young cubs.
Cheetahs are generally solitary except for male
coalitions and females with dependent cubs (Caro
1994). Social structure is regulated by males
marking their territory and patrolling it, defending it
aggressively against other males (Caro & Collins
1987a). Males may also fight to the death over
females (Caro & Collins 1987b, M.G.L.Mills, pers.
comm.) By contrast, females do not defend the
ranges they occupy (Caro 1994).
Female cheetahs typically conceive for the first
time at age 21–28 months (Labuschagne 1979;
Pettifer 1981; Kelly
1998) with a gestation of
90–98 days (Schaller 1972b,c,d). They may thus
have their first litter when 24–31 months old.They
tend to have litters once every 18–20 months,
although should they lose a litter earlier they will
quickly breed again (Schaller 1972b,c,d; Frame &
1998) and litter sizes range
from two to six (Schaller 1972b,c,d: Frame &
Frame 1976; Pettifer 1981; Hunter 1998).
Cubs reach independence of females at
13–24 months (Schaller 1972b,c,d). After leaving
the mother the sibling group usually stays together
for at least a few months (Caro 1994.), even up to a
year (M.G.L. Mills, pers. obs.). Females typically
leave the sibling group on their own when they
come into estrus (Caro 1994; M.G.L. Mills, pers.
obs.), while male litter mates form coalitions of,
usually two to three, but up to four to five individuals
(Caro & Collins 1987b). Males generally only join
with a female when she is in oestrus (Hunter
1998). Cub survival rates are variable, but can
range from 5% (Laurenson 1994) to 36% (Mills &
Mills, in press). Where there are many competing
predators, especially lions, spotted hyaenas and
leopard, cheetah live at low densities and have low
survival rates. In fenced parks, where there are no
other large predators, and areas with low large
carnivore density, sur vival rates are higher (62% of
those that had left the den in Phinda Game Reserve,
Hunter 1998, and 64% in the Kgalagadi Trans-
frontier Park – Mills & Mills, in press) and females
have raised as many as six cubs successfully
The effect of social dynamics on female cheetahs
can be mimicked through the same five manage-
ment options outlined for lions. Typically, two to
eight females will share parts of their home range
2008). A sensible target is the main-
tenance of variance in the number of adult females
that may frequent management units. Managers
can make use of modelling approaches (Crooks
4 South African Journal of Wildlife Research Vol. 44, No. 1, April 2014
2008) using a mixture of
options to achieve an average number of adult
females of four in each management unit.
Male survival may be lower than that of females
because they aggressively defend territories (Hunter
& Skinner 1995). When male cubs become inde-
pendent, they disperse with their sibling brothers
until mature enough to compete with other male
coalitions. Single males may join other males in
coalitions, or remain solitary. Territorial tenure of
male coalitions can last from three to 25 months
depending on the size of the coalitions. Occa-
sionally tenure may last for an extended period up
to six years (Caro & Collins 1987a; Caro & Collins
Three feasible management options are avail-
able for males: 1) mimic male dispersal through
removal and introductions of subadults; 2) mimic
territory tenure, and 3) mimic higher death rates of
old males by removing the oldest males. Territory
sizes range from 37 km2to 504 km2(Pettifer 1981;
Caro 1994; Hunter 1998; Mills 1998). Given the
range of sizes in the management units compris-
ing the typical reserve, a single coalition with the
occasional presence of two coalitions may be a
sensible target. Alternatively, single males may be
just as successful. Using modelling approaches
can design an intervention programme to achieve
territory tenure of two years and allowing each
coalition to have only one breeding opportunity.
Managing cheetah at this scale is much more diffi-
cult than lions and will need most cheetahs to be
collared to facilitate efficient monitoring.
Managing large carnivores in small areas carries
several challenges. We suggest that social
mimicking acting as an alternative to carrying
capacity approaches (Hayward
lead to variable population sizes that may be more
compatible with system-based approaches to
conservation management (Rogers 2003). Our
approach hinges on the assumption that social
limitation plays a key role in regulating the dynam-
ics of social (
lions, Bertram 1973) or even
asocial carnivores living in groups (
This implies that on a local scale when restricted
space interferes with social dynamics, predator–
prey dynamics revert to numerical drivers rather
than spatial as has been proposed for some
mega-herbivores (van Aarde
sensible is this proposition?
We argue that systems-based approaches to
conservation management (Bocking 1994) have
three elements; providing opportunities for ecolog-
ical processes to play out, restoring ecological
processes and/or mimicking the outcomes of
ecological processes. The four key population
processes birth, deaths, immigrations and emigra-
tions are what our suggestion targets, but in a
mechanistic way (Ferreira
2011) at the social
group level.Is there biological reality to mimicking
these social effects on vital rates?
Lions provide an example of the mechanistic
breakdown of social systems in small confined
areas. Female lions live in groups to either defend
cubs from roaming males or defend territories from
other groups (Packer
2005). Defense is asso-
ciated with lion-lion interactions that may induce
stress and carry risk for individual survival. In small
confined areas roaming males are often absent
and these areas more often than not only contain
one pride. The drivers of group living are dimin-
ished. It is predicted that mortality risks and social
stress weakens in such cases.
Females may lose body condition when socially
or resource stressed (Clauss
females that have never bred may not have good
enough body condition to enter reproductive activ-
ity. This mechanism thus increases age at first
birth. Carnivore females that have already bred do
not reach good enough condition to become recep-
tive and do not conceive. This typically increases
birth intervals. Alternatively, females that have
already conceived suffer from maintaining good
enough breeding condition and abort or resorb
Greenwood & Sargeant 1994) lead-
ing to reduced litter sizes. Given that resource
stress and social stress are often expected to be
greatly reduced in small areas, we propose that
the mechanisms that reduce fecundity are absent
in such areas. Our propositions focus on inducing
such control on fecundity by mimicking the out-
comes of social stressors and thus carry biological
Survival effects also seem to be associated with
resources as well as social stresses.For both lions
and cheetahs, survival is associated with prey
biomass, but social interactions irrespective of
resources also greatly influence survival (Durant
2010). Coalition take-over
for instance is a key driver of lion cub mortality
2008) as well as subadult male
survival in cheetahs (Durant
mortalities may in turn be a key driver of carnivore
Ferreira & Hofmeyr: Managing charismatic carnivores in small areas 5
dynamics or at least a key determinant of variance
in carnivore dynamics both spatially and tempo-
Funston 2008). That in turn should affect
predator–prey relations simply through resultant
variance in carnivore abundance.
The relative role of fecundity versus cub survival
in affecting recruitment of individuals into the
breeding adult populations of both species is
largely unknown. We anticipate that this may differ
from case to case and could depend on a variety of
factors including environmental and social. Even
so, a significant criticism of our approach could
focus on why our proposed actions do not actively
induce cub mortalities.
In terms of our social management framework,
the mimicking of variance in cub survival is a
by-product in our mimicking of coalition take-over
in lions, which is one of the key mechanisms induc-
ing variance in cub-survival (Lehmann
The lack of resources leading to nutrition related
mortalities when intra-specific competition is
Sliwa 2006) is a dynamic driver of
carnivores related to the density of prey (
Ferreira & Funston 2010). In small areas where
accessibility to prey may be higher irrespective of
prey density (Funston 2008), the above mecha-
nism is degraded and cub survival tends to be
higher. Our approach targets part of the nutrition
mechanisms through the spin-offs provided.
Secondly, the euthanasia of cubs may be ethi-
cally unacceptable to society at large (Fahrion
2011). We do not exclude cub euthanasia as
in some cases it may be the only practical solution
to mimic some of the natural processes that
free-ranging lions and cheetahs in large areas are
exposed to.However, by focusing on the fecundity
component of the recruitment dynamics of adults,
a much more ethically acceptable option is pre-
ferred as part of achieving a variety of socially
responsible conservation mandates.
A key concern is that culling and husbandry type
approaches impose large and rapid selection
pressures on a population (
2001). This could have far reaching consequences
for evolutionary potential and directly contrast eco-
system-based approaches (Bocking 1994). Our
approach of allowing coalitions essentially one
opportunity to breed and having external linkages
in the network of management units is likely to
maintain evolutionary potential as well as genetic
diversity over time. We reason that given that
social dynamics similar to carnivores in large
areas are mimicked, genetic integrity will be an
outcome, in stark contrast to approaches used
until now (see Trinkel
We have argued strongly for a social approach to
mimicking social dynamics for group or near-group
living carnivores when these live in spatially
restricted areas. This suggestion, however, carries
some pitfalls, most of which are speculative. First,
anecdotal cases have been noted where contra-
ception imposes individual health threats. Health
complications may arise in later reproductive
physiological responses when females are chemi-
cally prevented from having their first cycle. In
addition, health complications may arise when
females that have been on contraceptives for
extended periods are allowed to cycle again,
but do so irregularly (
Furthermore, the physical tying of uteri tubes
(unilateral salpingectomy, Alhasani
reduce litter size may lead to anatomical complica-
tions, surgical complications and associated infec-
tions. This reflects some of the concerns associated
with the application of contraceptives to other
carnivores in free-ranging environments (Grandy
& Rutberg 2002).
Secondly, at a behavioral level, change in the
demand of dependents on adults may induce
behavioural changes (
instance, if an individual female’s resource need is
substantially reduced it may allow individual hunt-
ing and lead to fragmentation of prides. This is
likely to conflict with some of the systems-based
conservation objectives such as providing for
tourism experiences, and increasing overall pre-
dation rates (Okello
Thirdly, although our proposition implies popula-
tion-level responses as potentially desirable, the
consequences for predator prey-interactions are
not clear.The spatial distribution of resources and
new needs may impose different home range and
spatial use patterns of manipulated individuals
Kerley & Shrader 2007), which in turn may
disrupt predator–prey interactions across land-
scapes. We propose that these concerns and
speculations, structured as hypotheses, should
form a key part of evaluating the consequences of
a socially-based approach to carnivore manage-
ment. Evaluation should focus on consequences
at the individual health, behavior, population, evo-
lutionary and predator–prey interaction level.
The implementation of our strategy may be seen
as equivalent to animal husbandry (
2006) or captive breeding (
Hoffman 2009) approach, but the outcomes are
6 South African Journal of Wildlife Research Vol. 44, No. 1, April 2014
vastly different. Our suggestions do not focus on
maximizing productivity (Shipilov 1972) as is
the case for husbandry and captive breeding
approaches, but rather inducing variance in dynam-
ics by mimicking the mechanisms that would do
that in free-ranging populations. The approach is
intensive and potentially costly and requires many
linkages and management agreement between
several conservation areas. The number of link-
ages depends on species life-histories as well as
the number and size of management units.
Our approach carries potential implications for
carnivore regional conservation plans. For one,
integration may be more successful with such a
process-based approach, but it may challenge
objectives of meta-populations, in particular for
cheetah meta-populations (Johnson
because our approach essentially recognizes a
single population with social groups spatially iso-
lated over vast areas.That is because meta-popu-
lation theory, based on asynchronous subpopulation
dynamics, variable dispersal and availability of
empty habitats (Olivier
2009) makes sub-
stantially different predictions than those made by
single population paradigms.
Some of the above challenges can be reconciled
through identifying regional nodes (
Fig. 1 for
lions and see Marnewick
2007 for cheetahs)
based on genetic geographical structure. We
suggest that most integration is then within such
nodes with rare external linkages to other nodes.
The reality is that regional plans may benefit
administratively, logistically, but most importantly,
ecologically from such an integrated process-
based husbandry approach. We caution though
that although our approach hinges on the assump-
tion that social limitations play key roles in regulat-
ing dynamics of social (
Bertram 1973), or even
asocial carnivores living in groups (
ecological conditions may also affect social behavior.
This suggest challenges for a blanket policy for all
reserves in all habitats, some of which may be
Ferreira & Hofmeyr: Managing charismatic carnivores in small areas 7
Fig. 1.Lion case study serving as an example of potential regional nodes for social-based large carnivore manage-
ment in South Africa. Four populations comprising spatially isolated social groups (¡) combine to form a single
meta-population across South Arica.
overcome by defining regional nodes based
on broad biome characteristics. Even so, we
acknowledge that a process-based or conserva-
tion husbandry approach requires buy-in and
coordination, but advocate that it provides a viable
alternative to tourism driven management inter-
ventions and can create dynamic predator–prey
relations in small areas addressing a variety of
We have suggested an alternative approach for
large carnivore management in small areas, some
of which do not have biodiversity objectives as key
foci. The approach suggests that site- and case-
specific population and evolutionary targets can
easily be met through a process-based approach
that attempts to mimic the various mechanisms
that drive variance in social groups. This is a
unique and contrasting way to apply husbandry
approaches and requires rigorous evaluation at
several levels. Even so, the approach suggested
here may produce significant outcomes that are
more defendable and acceptable to scientists,
managers and the general public at large without
compromising biological and other conservation
This manuscript benefitted from discussions
with Park Management staff and the regional
ecologists of the Arid, Frontier and Northern
Regions of parks under the management authority
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Corresponding Editor: M.G.L. Mills
Ferreira & Hofmeyr: Managing charismatic carnivores in small areas 11