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. Sep-Oct 2013;32(5):518-27.
doi: 10.1002/zoo.21085. Epub 2013 Jun 28.

Captive-housed Male Cheetahs (Acinonyx Jubatus Soemmeringii) Form Naturalistic Coalitions: Measuring Associations and Calculating Chance Encounters

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Captive-housed Male Cheetahs (Acinonyx Jubatus Soemmeringii) Form Naturalistic Coalitions: Measuring Associations and Calculating Chance Encounters

Carly L Chadwick et al. Zoo Biol. .

Abstract

Cheetahs are known to reproduce poorly in captivity and research suggests that the reasons for this are behavioral, rather than physiological. In the wild, male cheetahs remain in stable groups, or coalitions, throughout their lifetime. Appropriate social group housing is important in enhancing welfare and reproductive success in captivity and this study examined the effect of changes in social group composition on the behavior of four male cheetahs: two siblings and two half siblings. During the study, the cheetahs were housed both in pairs and as a group of four, before one male was relocated. The remaining cheetahs were then housed in a trio. Affiliative behaviors were frequently shown within pairs and overt aggression was seldom observed. Association indices were calculated for each cheetah pair and corrected for chance encounters based on data generated from a Monte Carlo simulation. The indices showed that two coalitions existed before the relocated male departed. Following the relocation of one of the half siblings, the remaining cheetahs appeared to form a coalition of three, as the indices of association between the unrelated male and the siblings increased and allogrooming between unrelated individuals was observed. The findings of this study indicate that natural social groupings of male cheetahs can be successfully replicated in captivity, which could potentially improve the chances of reproductive success when they are introduced to female cheetahs.

Keywords: behavior modeling; captive breeding; felid; group housing; social behavior; vigilance behavior; zoo.

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