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, 10 (2), e0117743
eCollection

To Kill, Stay or Flee: The Effects of Lions and Landscape Factors on Habitat and Kill Site Selection of Cheetahs in South Africa

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To Kill, Stay or Flee: The Effects of Lions and Landscape Factors on Habitat and Kill Site Selection of Cheetahs in South Africa

Susana Rostro-García et al. PLoS One.

Abstract

Understanding how animals utilize available space is important for their conservation, as it provides insight into the ecological needs of the species, including those related to habitat, prey and inter and intraspecific interactions. We used 28 months of radio telemetry data and information from 200 kill locations to assess habitat selection at the 3rd order (selection of habitats within home ranges) and 4th order (selection of kill sites within the habitats used) of a reintroduced population of cheetahs Acinonyx jubatus in Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa. Along with landscape characteristics, we investigated if lion Panthera leo presence affected habitat selection of cheetahs. Our results indicated that cheetah habitat selection was driven by a trade-off between resource acquisition and lion avoidance, and the balance of this trade-off varied with scale: more open habitats with high prey densities were positively selected within home ranges, whereas more closed habitats with low prey densities were positively selected for kill sites. We also showed that habitat selection, feeding ecology, and avoidance of lions differed depending on the sex and reproductive status of cheetahs. The results highlight the importance of scale when investigating a species' habitat selection. We conclude that the adaptability of cheetahs, together with the habitat heterogeneity found within Phinda, explained their success in this small fenced reserve. The results provide information for the conservation and management of this threatened species, especially with regards to reintroduction efforts in South Africa.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have the following interests: Conservation Corporation Africa (CCA) provided in-kind support in the form of room, board and fuel for the research vehicle. This does not alter their adherence to PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

Figures

Fig 1
Fig 1. Map of Phinda Private Game Reserve during the study period (1993–1995).
The MunYaWana area indicated in the map was consolidated with Phinda in July 2004, forming the MunYaWana conservancy. Light grey polygons show state-run protected areas. The white background is a mosaic of agricultural and communal lands and the light blue polygon shows the Lake St-Lucia. The inset on the left shows the location of Phinda in South Africa.
Fig 2
Fig 2. Probability of cheetah presence within their home range in relation to: (a) distance to the boundary; (b) risk of encountering a lion in dry mountain bushveld; risk of encountering a lion at (c) long and (d) short distances to water sources; (e) distance to water sources within closed red sand bushveld.
Fitted lines are displayed with 95% confidence intervals.

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Publication types

Grant support

Funding was provided by the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, Pittsburgh Zoo Conservation Fund University of Pretoria, Foundation for Research Development and W.H. Craib Memorial Trust. Conservation Corporation Africa (CCA) provided in-kind support in the form of room, board and fuel for the research vehicle. Funding per se was not received from CCA for the study. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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