INQUA Project 1402: African Large Carnivores: impacts on ecosystems and humans interactions
Dr Ogeto Mwebi NMK, Kenya (PI)
Dr Jean-Philip Brugal, CNRS, France (CO-I)
Primary aim of the project: To bring together young and senior researchers involved in different fields of large carnivore studies to share existing data and to improve skills and results in the analysis of bone assemblages related to ecology in order to explore questions related to past and recent human-carnivore interactions and conservation.
Large carnivores are major components of the ecosystems that regulate herbivore populations and have cascading influences on the functioning of the biosphere. By analysis of their prey bone accumulations and modifications patterns, carnivores can also bring important issues in reconstruction of past, present and even predict future ecosystem dynamics. However, negative attitudes and competition for limited space/resources has led to rapid elimination of these carnivores from most of their natural ranges; the consequence of their ecological role and their current elimination is little known. In Africa, the large carnivores belong to three families: Felidae (lion, leopard, cheetah), Hyenidae (spotted, striped and brown hyenas) and Canidae (wild dogs) are facing great conservation challenges.
Hence carnivore ecology and conservation is a complex affair touching on the socio-economic/cultural values of the pastoralists as well as reconstruction on past and present ecological dynamics within various ecosystems. To address these issues will require multi-disciplinary expertise and the main goal of the project will be to develop knowledge on the ‘ecology of the predation’ through modern and fossil taphonomical studies. Neotaphonomical studies can aid in the interpretation of paleontological and archaeological sites formation processes; they can also infer environmental changes through time and understand intra- and inter-specific competitions (especially with prehistoric humans). Such studies need development of a robust methodology to analyze bone assemblages made by carnivores, at dens or lairs, kill-sites or specific landscape where predation commonly occurred (around waterholes for example).
The long term goal of this project will be to form an international carnivore researchers’ focus group that will bring together young and senior researchers working on diverse aspects of the carnivore studies both in modern and fossil record that include: taphonomy, ethology, ecology, paleontology, biochemical, morphofunction, genetics and conservation with a scientific purpose of linking pleistocenist and holocenist. The project will:
- build a network about large carnivore researchers working on modern and fossil (quaternary) carnivores, starting on African continent but possibly enlarge to other continents;
- favor a common methodology and create a database on bone assemblages made by carnivores (data on biodiversity, biological structure, marks and skeletal representation, etc.) with implication on range and type of predatory actions ;
- explore the relationship between various data sets (especially environmental data) with the aim to provide advice and information on large carnivores’ conservation, in connection with human activities.
The objective of the focus group is to create a better understanding about the role and effects of carnivores both in the wild and within human-occupied zones, with implications on potential preys (especially ungulates – as well as to appreciate importance of livestock -, mesopredators).
Activities will begin with a meeting in Kenya in summer 2014 (two days, end of June) followed by special training seminar (two days).