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Evaluating the use of local ecological knowledge (LEK) in determining habitat preference and occurrence of multiple large carnivores

Madsen, Emily K.; Elliot, Nicholas B.; Mjingo, Ernest E.; Masenga, Emmanuel H.; Jackson, Craig R.; May, Roel F.; Røskaft, Eivin; Broekhuis, Femke


Emily K. Madsen

Nicholas B. Elliot

Ernest E. Mjingo

Emmanuel H. Masenga

Craig R. Jackson

Roel F. May

Eivin Røskaft

Femke Broekhuis


Understanding habitat preferences and distribution of threatened species is a cornerstone of conservation, however many of the techniques available can be resource intensive. One cost-effective method is by collecting information on species presence and absence from people who regularly interact with the area of interest, also known as Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK). However, the reliability of this type of data has been questioned, especially when there is a possibility that the focal species is being misidentified or their presence misreported. This can introduce false negatives, when a species is present but has not been reported, and false positives, when the species has been reported but is not present. These biases are not always accounted for which can result in the under- or overestimation of species presence. To better understand the reliability of LEK data, we compared the outputs of five different analytical techniques to that of a more widely accepted approach, resource selection functions (RSF), using GPS-collar data from three different carnivore species (African lion Panthera leo, cheetah Acinonyx jubatus and African wild dog Lycaon pictus). Hierarchical models which accounted for the possibilities of both false negatives and false positives most closely matched that of the RSFs, especially for the two rarer species; African wild dog and cheetah. Our results show that when both false negatives and false positives are accounted for that LEK can be used as a rapid and cost-efficient tool for assessing threatened species which can be adopted into practical conservation projects.


Madsen, E. K., Elliot, N. B., Mjingo, E. E., Masenga, E. H., Jackson, C. R., May, R. F., …Broekhuis, F. (in press). Evaluating the use of local ecological knowledge (LEK) in determining habitat preference and occurrence of multiple large carnivores. Ecological Indicators, 118, 106737

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 15, 2020
Deposit Date Aug 17, 2020
Journal Ecological Indicators
Print ISSN 1470-160X
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 118
Pages 106737
Public URL
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