Spatial and Temporal Habitat Use by GPS Collared Male Cheetahs in Modified Bushland Habitat

06.11.2016 | By , , ,

Cheetahs and other apex predators are threatened by human-wildlife conflict and habitat degradation. Bush encroachment creates one of the biggest forms of habitat change, thus it is important to understand the impact this has on habitat use. We investigated habitat preferences of five male cheetahs in Namibian farmlands degraded by bush encroachment. Cheetahs were tracked using satellite based Global System for Mobile (GSM) collars providing a higher resolution on ranging behavior. We aimed to investigate: 1) habitat characteristics; 2) evidence for habitat selection; 3) temporal activity partitioning; and 4) whether revisits to locations were related to habitat type. There were differences in habitat characteristics, showing that cheetahs were able to utilise different
habitats. Fecal pellet counts revealed that warthog, oryx, scrub hare and kudu were most abundant. The cheetahs spent more time in high visibility shrubland, suggesting they selected rewarding patches within predominantly bush-encroached landscapes. The usage in marginal habitat was strikingly influenced by habitat type, with both previously cleared and open vegetated areas showing high proportions in edge use. Individuals exhibited significant temporal activity partitioning, showing peaks between late afternoon and early morning hours. This finding could be key to managing human-wildlife conflict by showing that increased protection such as the use of herders and livestock guarding dogs should be used as mitigation methods to minimize the impact of cheetah specific temporal patterns at all times as defined in this research. Visits to the same locations were not correlated to habitat type; revisits may be dictated by other reasons such as social interaction, prey density or avoidance of other predators. Findings from this study will help build existing knowledge on the effects bush encroachment has on cheetah habitat preference.