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


  • L Vebber Miami University, Department of Biology, Oxford, OH. USA
  • J Noack AfriCat Foundation
  • L Heyns AfriCat Foundation
  • D Rodenwoldt AfriCat Foundation
  • S Edwards AfriCat Foundation


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.

Author Biography

L Vebber, Miami University, Department of Biology, Oxford, OH. USA

Lisa Vebber is a graduate of the Advanced Inquiry Program through Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) in affiliation with San Diego Zoo Global.





Section A: Research articles