Introduction: As urban and rural land development become widespread features of the global landscape so an understanding of the landscape requirements of displaced and isolated wildlife species becomes increasingly important for conservation planning. In the Cape Peninsula, South Africa, rapid human population growth, and the associated urban and rural land transformation, threatens the sustainability of the local chacma baboon population. Here we analyse spatial data collected from nine of the 12 extant troops to determine their population-level landscape requirements. We use hurdle models to ascertain the key landscape features influencing baboon occurrence and abundance patterns on two hierarchical spatial scales.
Results: Both spatial scales produced similar results that were ecologically reliable and interpretable. The models indicated that baboons were more likely to occur, and be more abundant, at low altitudes, on steep slopes and in human-modified habitats. The combination of these landscape variables provides baboons with access to the best quality natural and anthropogenic food sources in close proximity to one another and suitable sleeping sites. Surface water did not emerge as an influential landscape feature presumably as the area is not water stressed.
Conclusions: The model results indicate that land development in the Cape Peninsula has pushed baboons into increasingly marginal natural habitat while simultaneously providing them with predictable and easily accessible food sources in human-modified habitats. The resultant spatial competition between humans and baboons explains the high levels of human-baboon conflict and further erosion of the remaining land fragments is predicted to exacerbate competition. This study demonstrates how the quantification of animal landscape requirements can provide a mechanism for identifying priority conservation areas at the human-wildlife interface.