Habitat structure and the presence of large carnivores shape the site use of an understudied small carnivore: caracal ecology in a miombo woodland

Robert Davis, Louise Gentle, William Mgoola, Emma Stone, Antonio Uzal, Richard Yarnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)


Basic ecological knowledge on African small carnivores and how they interact with the wider carnivore guild are lacking for many species. The caracal (Caracal caracal) has a widespread distribution across Africa, yet there is a paucity of information on this species outside of savannah and agricultural landscapes. Using camera trap data from Kasungu National Park, Malawi, we provide novel information on caracal habitat use in a miombo woodland and compare the spatiotemporal dynamics between caracal and members of the large carnivore guild (leopard, Panthera pardus and spotted hyaena, Crocuta crocuta). We found that caracal were more likely to use sites with higher grass cover and further away from permanent water sources. Caracal site use increased in areas with lower spotted hyaena abundance and caracal exhibited different temporal activity patterns to spotted hyaena. In contrast, caracal did not exhibit spatial or temporal avoidance of leopard at the scale investigated here. However, the probability of detecting caracal at sites of higher leopard abundance was significantly lower, suggesting possible behavioural mechanisms to avoid interaction. Our study provides an insight into caracal ecology in a miombo woodland and improves our understanding of community dynamics between a lesser-studied small carnivore and the large carnivore guild.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberhttps://doi.org/10.1007/s13364-022-00655-1
Pages (from-to)113-120
Number of pages8
JournalMammal Research
Issue number1
Early online date18 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was conducted in collaboration with Carnivore Research Malawi (CRM), Conservation Research Africa (CRA) and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Malawi (DNPW). We thank DNPW and the Kasungu National Park management team and scouts for their continued collaboration and support; all the volunteers and staff at CRM for assisting with data collection and field support; and CRM for use of equipment and logistical support. We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback.

Funding Information:
This work was funded by Nottingham Trent University, Carnivore Research Malawi, Oklahoma Zoo and Idea Wild.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Activity patterns
  • Interspecific competition
  • Malawi
  • Mesocarnivore
  • Occupancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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