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Mesocarnivore community structuring in the presence of Africa’s apex predator

Cite this dataset

Curveira-Santos, Gonçalo et al. (2021). Mesocarnivore community structuring in the presence of Africa’s apex predator [Dataset]. Dryad.


Apex predator reintroductions have proliferated across southern Africa, yet their ecological effects and proposed umbrella benefits of associated management lack empirical evaluations. Despite a rich theory on top-down ecosystem regulation via mesopredator (<20kg) suppression, a knowledge gap exists relating to the influence of lions (Panthera leo) over Africa’s diverse mesocarnivore communities. We investigate how geographical variation in mesocarnivore community richness and occupancy across South African reserves is associated with the presence of lions.  An interesting duality emerged: lion reserves held more mesocarnivore-rich communities, yet mesocarnivore occupancy rates and evenness-weighted diversity were lower in the presence of lions. Human population density in the reserve surroundings had a similarly ubiquitous negative effect on mesocarnivore occupancy. The positive association between species richness and lion presence corroborated the umbrella species concept but translated into small differences in community size. Distributional contractions of mesocarnivore species within lion reserves, and potentially corresponding numerical reductions, suggest within-community mesopredator suppression by lions, likely as a result of lethal encounters and responses to a landscape of fear. Our findings offer empirical support for theoretical understanding of processes underpinning carnivore community assembly and are of conservation relevance under current large-predator orientated management and conservation paradigms.


We used camera-trap data on mesocarnivore species collected across R=17 reserves and S = 33 reserve-by-year surveys in NE South Africa. We summarized mesocarnivore daily encounter frequency data to implement the multi-region community occupancy model used to jointly describe geographical variation in mesocarnivore community richness and occupancy.

Usage notes

This is the multi-species detection data used to fit the Multi-region community occupancy model described in Curveira-Santos et al. "Mesocarnivore community structuring in the presence of Africa’s apex predator". Model formulation details are reported in SII Appendix and the JAGS model code is given in SIII Appendix of the article's supplementary material.

The data file called “Mesocarnivore camera-trapping data.RData” contains the following objects:

  1. "covs": reserve-by-year-specific covariates (lion presence [“LION”], reserve size [“AREA”], habitat diversity [“DIV_SI”], human population density [“HUM”], and leopard density ["LEOP"]);
  2. "K_tot": number of sampling occasions for each site in each reserve-by-year survey;
  3. "nregionYear": total number of reserve-by-year surveys;
  4. "nsites": total number of sites per reserve-by-year survey;
  5. "nspecies": total number of observed species;
  6. "region": numeric ID for each region in each reserve-by-year survey;
  7. "Ytot_3D": species-by-sites-by-survey detection frequency matrix.


Peace Parks Foundation

Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Award: PD/BD/114037/2015

National Research Foundation, Award: UID: 107099 & 115040

African Institute for Conservation Ecology

Peace Parks Foundation

African Institute for Conservation Ecology