Of teeth and claws: Taking stock of carnivore research in the greater Etosha landscape


  • FJ Weise Ongava Research Centre, Ongava Game Reserve. Private Bag 12041, Suite No. 10, Ausspannplatz, Windhoek.
  • JW Kilian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Etosha Ecological Institute, Okaukuejo, Etosha National Park.
  • S Périquet Ongava Research Centre, Ongava Game Reserve. Private Bag 12041, Suite No. 10, Ausspannplatz, Windhoek.


Etosha National Park, predator, bibliography, synthesis, Carnivora, protected area, research history, Namibia


The Etosha National Park and its surrounding areas in northern Namibia have been the focus of research for more than a century, yielding a great amount of environmental and ecological knowledge. The results have appeared in different forms and formats, and these are stored in numerous repositories, many of which are difficult to access. This limits distribution and effective use of existing knowledge about specific topics and biological taxa, whilst also constraining the opportunity to identify future research priorities. In this study, we assessed published and unpublished accounts to compile an overview of previous mammalian carnivore research in the greater Etosha landscape – one of the few remaining large sub-Saharan areas (> 69,000 km2) with a nearly intact carnivore guild. Of the 644 carnivore-related documents we found, 139 studies met our inclusion criteria. From these, we identified trends emerging from spatial, temporal, species,  authorship, and topic patterns, whilst also digitising source materials and creating an annotated bibliography that is being made available to others. Our synthesis of carnivore research revealed several historical biases in terms of: i) where carnivore studies occurred (mainly within National Park boundaries); ii) which species were studied (mostly large-bodied, charismatic animals, especially the lion Panthera leo); and iii) which research themes and topics prevailed (mostly ecology topics focussing on occurrence, diet, and demographics). We also found that carnivore research output has been declining during the last three decades and this was accompanied by a shift in lead authorship from government-employed researchers to external investigators. We use our results to provide a stimulus for re-focusing future carnivore studies. We encourage similar syntheses and stock-taking of what is known for other taxa and topic areas, stressing the importance of preserving historical knowledge and making it accessible.





Section A: Research articles