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Kissui, B.
Demography, population dynamics, and the human-lion conflicts: lions in the Ngorongoro Crater and the Maasai steppe, Tanzania 
2008  Full Book

Efforts to determine whether populations are regulated by bottom-up or top-down processes have been hampered by difficulties in accurately estimating the population's carrying capacity and in directly measuring food intake rate, impacts of interspecific competition and exposure to natural enemies. We report on 40-yrs data on the lion population in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, which showed strong evidence of density dependent regulation at 100-120 individuals but has remained below 60 for the past decade despite consistently high prey abundance. The lions enjoy higher per capita food intake rate and higher cub recruitment at low population density, and inter-specific competition has not increased in recent years. These animals have suffered from a number of severe disease outbreaks over the past 40 years, but whereas the population recovered exponentially from a severe epizootic in 1963, three outbreaks between 1994 and 2001 have occurred in such rapid succession that the population has been unable to return to the carrying capacity. The Crater population may have become unusually vulnerable to infectious disease in recent years due to close proximity to a growing human population and a history of close inbreeding. The Crater lions may therefore provide important insights into the future of many endangered populations. 

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