Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Survival rates and causes of mortality of leopards Panthera pardus in southern Africa

  • Lourens H. Swanepoel (a1), Michael J. Somers (a1), Wouter van Hoven (a1), Monika Schiess-Meier (a2), Cailey Owen (a3), Andrei Snyman (a4), Quinton Martins (a5), Charl Senekal (a6), Gerrie Camacho (a7), Willem Boshoff (a8) and Fredrik Dalerum (a1)...

Estimation of survival rates is important for developing and evaluating conservation options for large carnivores. However, telemetry studies for large carnivores are often characterized by small sample sizes that limit meaningful conclusions. We used data from 10 published and 8 unpublished studies of leopards Panthera pardus in southern Africa to estimate survival rates and investigate causes of leopard mortality. Mean survival rates were significantly lower in non-protected (0.55 ± SE 0.08) compared to protected areas (0.88 ± 0.03). Inside protected areas juveniles had significantly lower survival (0.39 ± 0.10) compared to subadults (0.86 ± 0.07) and adults (0.88 ± 0.04). There was a greater difference in cause of death between protected and non-protected areas for females compared to males, with people being the dominant cause of mortality outside protected areas for both females and males. We suggest there is cause for concern regarding the sustainability of leopard populations in South Africa, as high female mortality may have severe demographic effects and a large proportion of suitable leopard habitat lies in non-protected areas. However, because a large proportion of deaths outside protected areas were attributed to deliberate killing by people, we suggest that management interventions may have the potential to increase leopard survival dramatically. We therefore stress the urgency to initiate actions, such as conflict mitigation programmes, to increase leopard survival in non-protected areas.

Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

A. Agresti (2010) Analysis of Ordinal Categorical Data. Wiley, Hoboken, USA.

H. Andrén , J.D.C. Linnell , O. Liberg , R. Andersen , A. Danell , J. Karlsson (2006) Survival rates and causes of mortality in Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in multi-use landscapes. Biological Conservation, 131, 2332.

J.D. Baker & P.M. Thompson (2007) Temporal and spatial variation in age-specific survival rates of a long-lived mammal, the Hawaiian monk seal. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274, 407415.

G.A. Balme , A. Batchelor , N. De Woronin Britz , G. Seymour , M. Grover , L. Hes (2013) Reproductive success of female leopards Panthera pardus: the importance of top-down processes. Mammal Review, 43, 221237.

G.A. Balme , L. Hunter & A.R. Braczkowski (2012) Applicability of age-based hunting regulations for African leopards. PLoS ONE, 7(4), e35209.

G.A. Balme , R. Slotow & L.T.B. Hunter (2009) Impact of conservation interventions on the dynamics and persistence of a persecuted leopard (Panthera pardus) population. Biological Conservation, 142, 26812690.

G.A. Balme , R. Slotow & L.T.B. Hunter (2010) Edge effects and the impact of non-protected areas in carnivore conservation: leopards in the Phinda–Mkhuze Complex, South Africa. Animal Conservation, 13, 315323.

J. du P. Bothma & M.D. Bothma (2006) Activity patterns in southern Kalahari leopards. African Zoology, 41, 150152.

J. du P. Bothma & R.J. Coertze (2004) Motherhood increases hunting success in southern Kalahari leopards. Journal of Mammalogy, 85, 756760.

S. Creel & J.J. Rotella (2010) Meta-analysis of relationships between human offtake, total mortality and population dynamics of gray wolves (Canis lupus). PLoS ONE, 5(9), e12918.

F. Dalerum , B. Shults & K. Kunkel (2008) Estimating sustainable harvest in wolverine populations using logistic regression. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 72, 11251132.

L.L. Eberhardt (2002) A paradigm for population analysis of long-lived vertebrates. Ecology, 83, 28412854.

P.M. Grambsch & T.M. Therneau (1994) Proportional hazards tests and diagnostics based on weighted residuals. Biometrika, 81, 515526.

S.B. Hrdy (1979) Infanticide among animals: a review, classification, and examination of the implications for the reproductive strategies of females. Ethology and Sociobiology, 1, 1340.

J. Krebs , E. Lofroth , J.P. Copeland , V. Banci , D. Cooley , H. Golden (2004) Synthesis of survival rates and causes of mortality in North American wolverines. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 68, 493502.

D.L. Murray (2006) On improving telemetry-based survival estimation. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 70, 15301543.

K.H. Pollock , S.R. Winterstein , C.M. Bunck & P.D. Curtis (1989) Survival analysis in telemetry studies: the staggered entry design. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 53, 715.

W.J. Ripple & R.L. Beschta (2012) Trophic cascades in Yellowstone: the first 15 years after wolf reintroduction. Biological Conservation, 145, 205213.

P.E. Stander , P.J. Haden , Kaqece & Ghau (1997) The ecology of asociality in Namibian leopards. Journal of Zoology, 242, 343364.

D.C. Stoner , M.L. Wolfe & D.M. Choate (2006) Cougar exploitation levels in Utah: implications for demographic structure, population recovery, and metapopulation dynamics. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 70, 15881600.

L.H. Swanepoel , P. Lindsey , M.J. Somers , W. van Hoven & F. Dalerum (2013) Extent and fragmentation of suitable leopard habitat in South Africa. Animal Conservation, 16, 4150.

J.E. Swenson , F. Sandegren , A. Soderberg , A. Bjarvall , R. Franzen & P. Wabakken (1997) Infanticide caused by hunting of male bears. Nature, 386, 450451.

S.K. Taylor , M.E. Roelke Parker , D.S. Rotstein , C.D. Buergelt & B.L. Homer (2002) Causes of mortality of free-ranging Florida panthers. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 38, 107114.

M. Thorn , M. Green , F. Dalerum , P.W. Bateman & D.M. Scott (2012) What drives human–carnivore conflict in the North West Province of South Africa? Biological Conservation, 150, 2332.

A. Treves & K.U. Karanth (2003) Human–carnivore conflict and perspectives on carnivore management worldwide. Conservation Biology, 17, 14911499.

J.L. Weaver , P.C. Paquet & L.F. Ruggiero (1996) Resilience and conservation of large carnivores in the Rocky Mountains. Conservation Biology, 10, 964976.

K. Whitman , A.M. Starfield , H.S. Quadling & C. Packer (2004) Sustainable trophy hunting of African lions. Nature, 428, 175178.

R. Woodroffe & J.R. Ginsberg (1998) Edge effects and the extinction of populations inside protected areas. Science, 280, 21262128.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Swanepoel Supplementary Material
Table S1

 PDF (82 KB)
82 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 6
Total number of PDF views: 48 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 234 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.