Department of Forestry and Renewable Forest Resources
Type of project
Type of project
01.12.2020 - 30.11.2023
ARRS FTE value
Project manager at BFKrofel Miha
InterMuc is a basic research project funded by the Slovenian Research Agency and led by the Carnivore Ecology Lab at University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department for Forestry (Slovenia). The project focuses on interactions among wild felids in Europe and Africa, but also includes research on other aspects of felid ecology in other parts of the world. We aim to address the very core of the field of ecology: the interactions among organisms. Apex predators, such as leopards, lions, cheetahs, and lynx, are known to perform vital roles in the functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems. However, interactions within and among these predator species are still far from completely understood. Wild felids (commonly known as cats) are widespread through a large gradient of habitats and often several species share the same habitat, which leads to frequent interactions among them. Although their body size varies more than 250-fold, their basic body shape remains remarkably consistent throughout this size gradient. Felids exhibit large diversity of behavioural traits (e.g. in sociality and foraging). These characteristics make them suitable to test hypotheses about the influence of various factors on inter-specific interactions (i.e. interactions among individuals of different species) and intra-specific interactions (i.e. interactions among individuals of the same species).
In this research project, we will strive to improve our understanding of inter-specific and intra-specific interactions among felids, as well as to gain novel insights into several other aspects of their ecology.
The main project objectives include:
– Study patterns of avoidance and attraction among the selected species of cats in space and time.
– Obtain novel insights into indirect communication among cats.
– Improve our understanding how intra- and inter-specific interactions affect prey consumption.
To achieve these, we will capture and equip several individuals of different felid species with GPS-collars. This will enable us to closely track their movements and help us understand which individuals avoid each other and which are attracted to each other and why. At the same time, GPS data will enable us to find locations that they use for scent-marking and locations where they kill their prey. On these sites, we will deploy automatic video cameras to study how they communicate amongst each other and how often they share or steal food from each other (i.e. prey remains of killed ungulates). The new data collected with the help of this project will be combined with datasets available from other projects and modern analytical approaches will be used to test a series of hypotheses that will improve our knowledge of the ecology of these charismatic species.
The phases of the project and their realization
We are currently on 2/3 of the project. So far we managed to capture and equipped with telemetry collars 8 out of 11 planned wildcats, 6 out of 6 planned leopards, 5 out of 5 planned cheetahs, as well as 4 Eurasian lynx and 15 lions within the partner projects (GAIA-Initiative and LIFE Lynx). We completed field sampling of leopard daybeds (371 sites) and found 63 leopard kill sites (at 35 of them we deployed camera traps). We completed analysis of prey sharing among leopards and space use of wildcats and Eurasian lynx sharing the same landscape. Currently we are finalizing analyses of leopard daybed selection and use of multiple-species marking sites by cheetahs, leopards and lynx. In total, we have so far within the project published 14 scientific papers and a series of popular articles. We also prepared 4 presentations at scientific meetings and 6 public presentations of the project with preliminary results. In addition, we have currently in review or preparation 13 scientific papers and we submitted 4 presentations for scientific meetings