Rehabilitated cheetahs exhibit similar prey selection behaviour to their wild counterparts: A case study of prey selection by rehabilitated cheetah released into an enclosed reserve in north-central Namibia
Keywords:cheetah, namibia, rehabilitated, Acinonyx jubatus, prey selection
A major challenge for cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) conservation is locating suitable areas to release captive-raised cheetahs that meet their need for large home ranges, whilst protecting them from human-wildlife conflict. The AfriCat Foundation has been rehabilitating and releasing cheetahs onto Okonjima Nature Reserve (ONR) near Otjiwarongo, Namibia, from 2000-2018. We analysed kill data for rehabilitated cheetahs on ONR to determine if captive-raised cheetahs exhibit similar prey selection to their wild counterparts. Between August 2017 and November 2018, a total of 65 kills made by seven cheetahs, comprising two sibling coalitions and three solitary individuals were recorded and analysed. Results suggest captive-raised cheetahs can hunt successfully, although all cheetahs in ONR required supplemental feeding for variable periods immediately after release. Once they were successfully hunting, rehabilitated cheetahs demonstrated similar prey selection behaviours to wild cheetahs. The ONR cheetahs selected prey based on size and local species abundance, and showed little difference in prey diversity across cheetah groupings. This study builds on previous studies into cheetah prey-selection behaviour, and can provide insight into choosing release sites for cheetahs, creating cheetah coalitions in captivity before release, as well as managing released cheetahs living with humans and other predators in smaller, fenced reserves.
Articles in this journal are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. The copyright of all articles and field notes belongs to the authors. All other copyright is held by the journal.