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Dangerous game: preferential predation on baboons by African wild dogs in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
- van der Meer, Esther, Lyon, Nick, Mutonhori, Thomas, Mandisodza-Chikerema, Roseline, Blinston, Peter
- Lycaon pictus, Papio, age structure, carnivores, diet, energy, feces, mortality, national parks, predation, predator-prey relationships, predators, prey species, risk, Zimbabwe
- When selecting prey, carnivores optimise energy gained when consuming prey against energy spent when pursuing and subduing prey. Additionally, predators seem to preferentially predate on prey which presents a low risk of injury. When defending itself against predators, baboons (Papio spp.) can inflict serious injury and cause mortality. Although part of Africa’s large carnivores’ diet, predation on baboons is usually avoided. We investigated prey selection patterns of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe. Based on direct and indirect observations and analyses of faecal samples, we show that baboons form a substantial part of the African wild dog diet and were more frequently predated on than would be expected based on availability. Predation on baboons did not vary over baboon sex or age classes but was affected by seasonality. This is the first study to describe a preference for predation on this unusual prey species.