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8 February 2019 Big Cats Return to Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi: Evaluating Reintroduction Success
Willem D. Briers-Louw, Stijn Verschueren, Alison J. Leslie
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Large carnivores are frequently reintroduced into protected areas to compensate for anthropogenic-driven losses. The lack of post-release monitoring has impeded our knowledge on how these carnivores adapt to their new environment, which often results in uncertainty of whether or not reintroductions were successful. Between 2011 and 2012, six leopards (Panthera pardus) and three lions (Panthera leo) were reintroduced into Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi, and each animal was fitted with a GPS or VHF collar to monitor their post-release movements and behaviour. All individuals survived longer than two and a half years post-release and successful breeding events were recorded for all females, except one leopard. Released felids showed little initial exploratory behaviour, none homed to their capture location and all individuals displayed at least some degree of release site fidelity. Lions established permanent ranges between five and seven months after release, with a mean home range of 82.1km2 (95%, T-LoCoH). Three leopards established permanent ranges between four and eight months, with a mean home range of 181.6 km2 (95%; T-LoCoH). Two leopards did not establish fixed home ranges, but rather exhibited continuous shifts in range which were likely due to natural disruptive events such as season, prey availability and other competitors. Our findings suggest that reintroduced felids may take longer to establish permanent home ranges than previously thought, highlighting the importance of long-term post-release monitoring. Based on our study, reintroduction appears to be an effective and viable tool to restore large carnivores in protected areas in Malawi.

Willem D. Briers-Louw, Stijn Verschueren, and Alison J. Leslie "Big Cats Return to Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi: Evaluating Reintroduction Success," African Journal of Wildlife Research 49(1), 34-50, (8 February 2019).
Received: 24 August 2018; Accepted: 7 November 2018; Published: 8 February 2019

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