Spatial ecology of cheetahs on north-central Namibian farmlands

Authors

  • L. L. Marker,

    1. Cheetah Conservation Fund, Otjiwarongo, Namibia
    2. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, Oxford, UK
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  • A. J. Dickman,

    1. Cheetah Conservation Fund, Otjiwarongo, Namibia
    2. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, Oxford, UK
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    • *Current address: Nuffield Building, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London NW1 4RY, UK.

  • M. G. L. Mills,

    1. South African National Parks, Endangered Wildlife Trust and Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Skukuza, South Africa
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    • Current address: Kgalagadi Cheetah Project, P. Bag X5890, Upington 8800, South Africa.

  • R. M. Jeo,

    1. Cheetah Conservation Fund, Otjiwarongo, Namibia
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    • Current address: The Nature Conservancy, 4245 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203 USA.

  • D. W. Macdonald

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, Oxford, UK
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Correspondence
Laurie L. Marker, Cheetah Conservation Fund, PO Box 1755, Otjiwarongo, Namibia.
Fax: 264 67 306247
Email: cheetah@iway.na

Abstract

Knowledge of a species' ranging behaviour is both fundamental to understanding its behavioural ecology and a prerequisite to planning its management. Few data exist on the spatial ecology of cheetahs Acinonyx jubatus outside protected areas, but such areas are particularly important to their conservation. Cheetahs on Namibian farmlands occupied exceptionally large home ranges, averaging 1651 km2 (±1594 km2), with no detectable effect of sex, social grouping or seasonality. Despite such large ranges, cheetahs tended to utilize intensively only a small fraction of that area: 50% of the fixes were located within an average of 13.9±5.3% of the home range. Ranges were not exclusive, overlapping on average by 15.8±17.0%, with male cheetahs showing more intra-sexual range overlap than did females. Coalitions of males appeared to select for a dense, prey-rich habitat, but this preference was not apparent for other social groupings. Conflict with humans is an important contributor to the species' decline, and these large, overlapping cheetah home ranges result in the movements of each individual cheetah encompassing many farms (21 based on the average home-range size). Consequently, many cheetahs may be exposed to a minority of farmers attempting to kill them, and also that many farmers may see the same cheetahs, thereby gaining an exaggerated impression of their abundance. Conservation priorities for cheetahs outside protected areas are the development of techniques for conflict resolution, as well as the maintenance and restoration of suitable habitat and promotion of land-management practices compatible with the continued existence of large carnivores.

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