Cheetah Study South Africa

The Kgalagadi Cheetah Study

The cheetah is a threatened species with a global IUCN classification of Vulnerable. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park contains one of the most important cheetah populations in the world, but little is known about this population. The overall aim of this 6 year project, which started in June 2006, is to identify the ecological role, behavioural adaptations, demographic parameters, conservation status and threats to the cheetah in the southern Kgalagadi ecosystem and to better understand how the species is adapted to arid regions.

Data on cheetah demographics is being collected through building up a photographic data base, using spot patterns to identify individuals. All cheetahs encountered during the study are photographed whenever possible and visitors to the KTP and other staff members also participate by providing photographs.

Observations on feeding habits are made by direct observation, tracking spoor with the help of San trackers and opportunistic observations of cheetahs hunting and on kills. In order to enhance the success of finding and following cheetahs certain individuals have been fitted with VHF radio collars, similar to those used in a number of other cheetah studies. Sex and age of prey is determined by examination of horns and teeth and condition by examination of femur bone marrow. Prey distribution and numbers are gleaned from routine aerial counts conducted by SANParks and DWNP staff, as well as by ground transects using the Distance Method.

Experiments using Doubly Labeled Water to measure energy turn over are being conducted in order to verify the feeding ecology data and to establish how efficiently cheetahs of different demographic groups and at different stages in their reproductive lives are balancing their energy budgets. This aspect is being carried out in collaboration with Queens University, Belfast.
Gus & Margie Mills with a collared cheetah Photo. G.Mills
The Kgalagadi Cheetah Study

Gus & Margie Mills with a collared cheetah
Photo. G.Mills

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