Cheetah cub survival revisited: a re-evaluation of the role of predation, especially by lions, and implications for conservation


  • M. G. L. Mills,

    Corresponding author
    1. The Lewis Foundation, Craighall, South Africa
    2. WildCRU, Zoology Department, University of Oxford, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Abingdon, UK
    • Correspondence

      Michael G.L. Mills, P.O. Box 7814, Sonpark, Nelspruit 1206, South Africa. Tel: +27 (0)72 671 5922 or +27 (0)84 953 0521


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  • M. E. J. Mills

    1. The Lewis Foundation, Craighall, South Africa
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  • Editor: Nigel Bennett


Cheetah cub survival on the Serengeti Plains (SP) was found to be exceptionally low, because of high predation rates, thought to be especially by lions. These results have contributed to the perception that cheetah cubs are particularly vulnerable to predation, and that areas with large carnivores may not be suitable for cheetah conservation. Here we show that survival of cheetah cubs in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was seven times higher than on the SP and, although predation was the most common form of mortality, lions were not found to be involved. Moreover, we suggest that scrutiny of the Serengeti data does not unequivocally prove the dominance of lions as predators of cheetah cubs there. We discuss these findings in the context of cheetah conservation, suggesting that further research on coexistence between cheetahs and other carnivores should receive attention and that the high mortality rates of cubs found on the SP may not be as widespread as is commonly believed. Furthermore, we recommend that maintaining the link between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning should receive more attention in carnivore conservation.