Carnivore distributions in Botswana are shaped by resource availability and intraguild species

L. N. Rich, D. A.W. Miller, H. S. Robinson, J. W. McNutt, M. J. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The composition of ecological communities is shaped by the interplay between interspecific interactions and species’ habitat and food requirements. The influence of interspecific interactions is particularly widespread within carnivore guilds, where species must balance the trade-off between resource acquisition and potentially costly encounters with intraguild competitors/predators. We tested whether intraguild species activity or resource availability had a stronger influence on the seasonal distributions of 10 carnivore species in northern Botswana. We deployed 132 camera stations across a 330 km2 area during the 2014 dry season and 2015 wet season. For each species and season, we developed occupancy models based on resource availability (i.e. prey, vegetation and water) and on intraguild species (i.e. photographic detection rates of intraguild competitors and predators). We then used k-fold cross-validation to assess the relative predictive ability of each model. Carnivore distributions were generally negatively associated with dense vegetation and contrary to expectations, positively associated with the detection rate of intraguild species. This suggests competitor/predator avoidance did not play a large role in influencing carnivore distributions in northern Botswana, a result that differs from other systems, and might be attributed to differences in habitat, carnivore densities, and prey availability. The predictive ability of our resource availability vs. intraguild species models differed between seasons and among species. Leopard distributions, for example, were best predicted by resource availability during the dry season and by the activity of intraguild species in the wet season. The majority of seasonal distributions were best predicted by intraguild species activity or a combination of both resource availability and intraguild species activity. As environments continually change, studies similar to ours are pertinent as they can be used to monitor distributions of wildlife communities and to better understand the relative importance of the diversity of ecological processes impacting wildlife communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-98
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Zoology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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