Spatiotemporal sharing and partitioning of scent‐marking sites by cheetahs and leopards in north‐central Namibia

  • April 26, 2021
  • by Verschueren S., Briers-Louw W. D., Cristescu, B, Fabiano E. C., Nghikembua M., Torres-Uribe C., Walker E., Marker L. L.

Abstract

Scent‐marking sites may facilitate interspecific information gathering and could help to minimise the risk of encounter with interspecific competitors. Recent evidence from South Africa shows that cheetahs avoid dominant predators at scent‐marking sites, which may delay or inhibit intraspecific communication in cheetahs. However, little is known on whether this pattern of avoidance occurs elsewhere in the cheetah’s range. We analysed a 9‐year camera trap data set from north‐central Namibia to explore interspecific use of marking sites by cheetahs and leopards. We documented frequent sharing of marking sites, which was likely facilitated through temporal segregation and by availability of alternative sites that were species‐specific. We did not identify a stronger avoidance response of cheetahs to leopards than to conspecifics, suggesting that delayed communication by cheetahs resulting from predator avoidance may be limited in our study area. Seasonality affected patterns of marking site visitation, which may be attributed to behavioural changes in relation to reproduction or resource availability, or to differential detectability of olfactory cues among seasons. We recommend further research to better understand carnivore scent‐marking, including behavioural responses to olfactory cues and environmental conditions, as well as intra‐ and interpopulation differences.

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