The use of space and prey by cheetahs in Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe

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South African Journal of Wildlife Research





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Observations of cheetahs, Acinonyx jubatus, in Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe five years after the release of a founder population found that range sizes had reduced considerably since the animals were first released. Two male cheetahs were observed to have ranges of 11 km2 and 53.2 km2 compared to an average of 135.5 km2 recorded for males shortly after release. A female cheetah was observed to have a range of 23 km2 compared to 236 km2 recorded for females shortly after release. Ranges included areas of woodland and grassland and overlapped considerably. The pattern of habitat use observed was found to be the same as that reported soon after release, the cheetahs preferring open grassland for hunting and eating and dense woodland for resting and moving through the Park. Impala was the preferred prey species both shortly after release and 5 years later. Measurements of prey availability suggest that the introduced population of cheetahs is well below ecological capacity (17 animals were counted compared to a theoretical 40 animals). However, the park has other resident large predators that would reduce the number of cheetah able to survive in the park, either indirectly through competition for prey, or directly by preying on cheetah cubs.

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