Predators are an important part of a healthy ecosystem. Predators cull vulnerable prey, such as the old, injured, sick, or very young, leaving more food for the survival and prosperity of healthy prey animals. Also, by controlling the size of prey populations, predators help slow down the spread of disease. Predators will catch healthy prey when they can, but catching sick or injured animals helps in natural selection and the establishment of healthier prey populations as the fittest animals are left to survive and reproduce.
If carnivores were removed from an ecosystem, what would happen?
1. Antelope herds would grow and grow.
2. Only bad weather such as a drought, or disease such as rabies, would slow down the herd growth.
3. Large antelope herds would overgraze their food source, and as the food disappeared, the whole herd would begin to starve.
Cheetahs and other predators help limit the growth of prey populations and prevent overgrazing of ranges. While human hunters can sometimes replace predators in the control of antelope populations, they generally do not remove the injured, sick, or older animals. Predators play an important role in maintaining healthy prey
The cheetah is a valuable member of its community. In addition to its role as a predator, cheetahs feed other animals, such as vultures, jackals, beetles, and other scavengers. After a cheetah kills an animal it usually begins eating at the hind quarters, which provide the greatest amount of meat. Because the cheetah is not an aggressive carnivore, larger predators, as well as jackals and vultures, can scare the cheetah off its kill. By leaving the remains of a carcass, the cheetah feeds other animals in the ecosystem.
Many people fear predators, especially big cats such as the lion, cheetah, and leopard. We are often taught to fear carnivores without understanding their unique behaviours, special adaptations, and essential roles in the maintenance of healthy ecosystems.
Wouldn’t a world without predators be something to fear even more?