Home ranges of cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) outside protected areas in South Africa

25 Feb 2016

As many carnivores occur outside protected areas, they are vulnerable to anthropogenic threats. In South Africa, the largest proportion of the distribution range of cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) is outside protected areas along the northern border of the country. Lions (Panthera leo) and spotted hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta) have been extirpated from these areas, leaving the depauperate carnivore guild dominated by cheetahs, leopards (Panthera pardus) and brown hyaenas (Hyaena brunnea). To determine how cheetahs use these areas, tracking collars were fitted to nine individuals from September 2003 to July 2009 in the Thabazimbi area, Limpopo, South Africa. Local Convex Hulls (αLoCoH) were used to determine home range sizes and 50 and 95 utilization distributions (UDs) were calculated. Male 95UDs ranged from 121.5 km2 to 607 km2 while females ranged from 14.7 km2 to 703.3 km2. Cheetahs utilized several ranches and mean home ranges sizes were larger than mean ranch size and larger than cheetah home ranges recorded in other southern African countries, with the exception of the more arid Namibia. This study provides valuable and relevant data on cheetahs and aids conservation practitioners in mitigating human-cheetah conflict on South African farmland.