Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Road proximity and traffic flow perceived as potential predation risks: evidence from the Tibetan antelope in the Kekexili National Nature Reserve, China

Xinming Lian A D , Tongzuo Zhang B , Yifan Cao B , Jianping Su B D and Simon Thirgood C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A College of Animal Science and Technology, Nanjing Agricultural University, No. 1 Weigang, Nanjing 210095, China.

B Key Laboratory of Adaptation and Evolution of Plateau Biota, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810001, China.

C Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen, AB158QH, UK.

D Corresponding authors. Email: lianxinming@gmail.com; jpsu@nwipb.ac.cn

Wildlife Research 38(2) 141-146 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR10158
Submitted: 7 September 2010  Accepted: 15 February 2011   Published: 20 April 2011

Abstract

Context: The risk-disturbance hypothesis predicts that animals exhibit risk-avoidance behaviours when exposed to human disturbance because they perceive the disturbance as a predatory threat.

Aims: This study aimed to examine whether Tibetan antelopes (Pantholops hodgsoni) exhibit risk-avoidance behaviour with proximity to a major highway and with increasing traffic flow consistent with the risk-disturbance hypothesis.

Methods: Focal-animal sampling was used to observe the behaviour of Tibetan antelopes. The behaviours were categorised as foraging, vigilance, resting, moving, or other. The time, frequency, and duration of foraging and vigilance were calculated.

Key results: As distance from the road increased, time spent foraging and foraging duration increased while foraging frequency, time spent being vigilant and vigilance frequency decreased, indicating that there is a risk perception associated with roads. Tibetan antelopes presented more risk-avoidance behaviours during high-traffic periods compared with low-traffic periods.

Conclusions: Tibetan antelopes exhibited risk-avoidance behaviour towards roads that varied with proximity and traffic levels, which is consistent with the risk-disturbance hypothesis.

Implications: The consequences of risk-avoidance behaviour should be reflected in wildlife management by considering human disturbance and road design.


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