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Leopard density and determinants of space use in a farming landscape in South Africa

McKaughan, Jamie; Stephens, Philip; Lucas, Chloe; Guichard-Kruger, Nadine; Guichard-Kruger, Frank; Hill, Russell

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James McKaughan
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy

Chloe Lucas

Nadine Guichard-Kruger

Frank Guichard-Kruger


Protected areas are traditionally the foundation of conservation strategy, but land not formally protected is of particular importance for the conservation of large carnivores because of their typically wide-ranging nature. In South Africa, leopard (Panthera pardus) population decreases are thought to be occurring in areas of human development and intense negative interactions, but research is biased towards protected areas, with quantitative information on population sizes and trends in non-protected areas severely lacking. Using Spatially Explicit Capture-Recapture and occupancy techniques including 10 environmental and anthropogenic covariates, we analysed camera trap data from commercial farmland in South Africa where negative human-wildlife interactions are reported to be high. Our findings demonstrate that leopards persist at a moderate density (2.21 /100 km2) and exhibit signs of avoidance from areas where lethal control measures are implemented. This suggests leopards have the potential to navigate mixed mosaic landscapes effectively, enhancing their chances of long-term survival and coexistence with humans. Mixed mosaics of agriculture that include crops, game and livestock farming should be encouraged and, providing lethal control is not ubiquitous in the landscape, chains of safer spaces should permit vital landscape connectivity. However, continuing to promote non-lethal mitigation techniques remains vital.


McKaughan, J., Stephens, P., Lucas, C., Guichard-Kruger, N., Guichard-Kruger, F., & Hill, R. (2024). Leopard density and determinants of space use in a farming landscape in South Africa. Scientific Reports, 14(1), Article 10562.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 30, 2024
Online Publication Date May 8, 2024
Publication Date May 8, 2024
Deposit Date May 8, 2024
Publicly Available Date May 9, 2024
Journal Scientific Reports
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 1
Article Number 10562
Keywords Camera trap, Occupancy models, Population density, Human-wildlife conflict, Panthera pardus, Habitat use
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