Knowledge on density trends and habitat use of wildlife species is vital for the development of conservation and management plans. By comparing density estimates for the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) and lion (Panthera leo) over a ten-year period (2009-2018) in the Mole National Park (Mole) in northern Ghana, we show that hyena density and distribution has increased progressively over the study period whiles overall lion density and distribution has decreased dramatically. Direct count data for the study period was collated from field reports systematically collected by staff of Mole during regular wildlife monitoring patrols. Data was geo-referenced with a Global Positioning System (GPS) and later processed into distribution maps using ArcView Spatial Analyst 9.0. Estimates of lion and hyena densities were done using DISTANCE 4.1 software package. Results indicated high range overlap and density of hyenas and lions in the Brubgani-Lovi-Nyanga camp beats of Mole in the years 2009-2013, with highest densities occurring in the Lovi beat. Overall density estimate for the period was 0.62 individuals per km2 for hyenas and 0.53 individuals per km2 for lions. In contrast, the years 2014-2018 witnessed a gradual increase in hyena density and distribution with a consequent sharp decrease in lion density. Whiles hyena distribution expanded southwards to the limits of the headquarters area (density of 1.32 individuals per km2), lions became restricted to just a few areas in Lovi and Nyanga with densities nearing zero. There was a significant inverse relationship between hyena density and lion density. The results suggest that Mole may be achieving only partial success in protecting lions, whereas hyena conservation seems to be considerably more effective. On the other hand, hyenas may be thriving to the disadvantage of lions. Such inference must however, be made cautiously because the fact that the densities are negatively related is not strong evidence to conclude that one is affecting the other, as many other factors including poaching activity could be involved. Our results are relevant to future conservation efforts for managing the carnivore populations in Mole, especially as reintroductions and translocations are essential tools used for the survival of several large African carnivores including the endangered lions.
1. Trinkel, M. and Kastberger, G. (2005). Competitive interactions between spotted hyenas and lions in the Etosha National Park, Namibia. Afr. J. Ecol., 43, 220-224