Conserving predators across agricultural landscapes in Colombia: habitat use and space partitioning by jaguars, pumas, ocelots and jaguarundis
Loss and degradation of natural habitats continue to increase across the tropics as a result of agricultural expansion. Consequently, there is an urgent need to understand their effects, and the distribution and habitat requirements of wildlife within human-modified landscapes, to support the conservation of threatened species, such as felids. We combined camera trapping and land cover data into occupancy models to study the habitat use and space partitioning by four sympatric felid species in an agricultural landscape in Colombia. Land use in the area includes cattle ranching and oil palm cultivation, the latter being an emerging land use type in the Neotropics. Factors determining species occupancy were the presence of wetlands for jaguars (positive effect); water proximity for pumas (positive effect); and presence of pastures for ocelots and jaguarundis (negative effect). Only ocelots were occasionally recorded in oil palm areas. Our results suggest that to align development with the conservation of top predators it is crucial to maintain areas of forest and wetland across agricultural landscapes and to restrict agricultural and oil palm expansion to modified areas such as pastures, which are of limited conservation value. Because there is no spatial segregation between the felid species we studied, conservation strategies that benefit all of them are possible even in modified landscapes.