Categorising cheetah behaviour using tri-axial accelerometer data loggers: a comparison of model resolution and data logger performance

  • February 7, 2022
  • by McGowan, N. E.,, Marks, N. J.,, Maule, A. G.,, Schmidt-Küntzel A., Marker L. L., Scantlebury, D. M.,



Extinction is one of the greatest threats to the living world, endangering organisms globally, advancing conservation to the forefront of species research. To maximise the efficacy of conservation efforts, understanding the ecological, physiological, and behavioural requirements of vulnerable species is vital. Technological advances, particularly in remote sensing, enable researchers to continuously monitor movement and behaviours of multiple individuals simultaneously with minimal human intervention. Cheetahs, Acinonyx jubatus, constitute a “vulnerable” species for which only coarse behaviours have been elucidated. The aims of this study were to use animal-attached accelerometers to (1) determine fine-scale behaviours in cheetahs, (2) compare the performances of different devices in behaviour categorisation, and (3) provide a behavioural categorisation framework.


Two different accelerometer devices (CEFAS, frequency: 30 Hz, maximum capacity:~2 g; GCDC, frequency: 50 Hz, maximum capacity:~8 g) were mounted onto collars, fitted to five individual captive cheetahs. The cheetahs chased a lure around a track, during which time their behaviours were videoed. Accelerometer data were temporally aligned with corresponding video footage and labelled with one of 17 behaviours. Six separate random forest models were run (three per device type) to determine the categorisation accuracy for behaviours at a fine, medium, and coarse resolution.


Fine- and medium-scale models had an overall categorisation accuracy of 83–86% and 84–88% respectively. Non-locomotory behaviours were best categorised on both loggers with GCDC outperforming CEFAS devices overall. On a coarse scale, both devices performed well when categorising activity (86.9% (CEFAS) vs. 89.3% (GCDC) accuracy) and inactivity (95.5% (CEFAS) vs. 95.0% (GCDC) accuracy). This study defined cheetah behaviour beyond three categories and accurately determined stalking behaviours by remote sensing. We also show that device specification and configuration may affect categorisation accuracy, so we recommend deploying several different loggers simultaneously on the same individual.


The results of this study will be useful in determining wild cheetah behaviour. The methods used here allowed broad-scale (active/inactive) as well as fne-scale (e.g. stalking) behaviours to be categorised remotely. These findings and methodological approaches will be useful in monitoring the behaviour of wild cheetahs and other species of conservation interest.

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