How animals use the landscape is determined not only by the distribution of their resources (water and vegetation for herbivores, prey for carnivores), but also by the ecology of fear (risk of predation, risk of anthropogenic mortality), as well as by the risk of competition and facilitation opportunities. In an ecosystem strongly structured by waterholes, characterized by a very high abundance of elephants and by a modification of the human activities in the periphery of the park, we try to understand the positioning of the home ranges and the determinants of habitat selection of large mammals in the Hwange ecosystem (inside and outside the protected area).
♦ Understand the relative role of resources and the risk of predation (natural or anthropogenic) in space use by large herbivores and large carnivores.
♦ Understand the role of horizontal interactions (competition and facilitation) in space use by large herbivores (role of elephants) and large carnivores (lion-hyaena interactions).
♦ Understand the factors that explain the use of human dominated areas by large mammals.
♦ Understand the determinants of elephant partial migration.
♦ Understand the use of pastoral resources (and the use of the protected area) by cattle and the consequences in terms of competition, health risk with other species of large wild herbivores and depredation.
Several species are studied using satellite telemetry to answer these questions; GPS collars have been deployed on elephants (more than 30 individuals – partnership with Wilderness Trust), buffalos (more than 20 individuals – partnership with CIRAD), zebras (more than 30 individuals), cattle (30 individuals – partnership with CIRAD), lions (more than 100 individuals in a programme led by WildCRU, Oxford University), and spotted hyaenas (a dozen individuals).