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Tuesday, January 26 • 3:40pm - 4:00pm
Reinforcement of Cheetah Acinonyx Jubatus Populations: Rewilding In North - Central Namibia

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AUTHORS: Matt Lindenberg*, Grand Valley State University; Paul Keenlance,Grand Valley State University; Joseph Jacquot, Grand Valley State University; Alexandra Locher, Grand Valley State University; Laurie Marker, Cheetah Conservation Fund

ABSTRACT: We released captive-held female cheetahs Acinonyx jubatus onto north-central Namibian farmlands to determine prey preference, habitat selection, home-range establishment and movement patterns. While movement and feeding ecology of wild female cheetahs in north-central Namibia are known, it is unknown if rewilded female cheetahs display the same behaviors. All females (n=7) in the study were selected for wild behavioral characteristics. The cheetahs were held in captivity (mean= 4.7 years), with an average release age of five years and little or no hunting experience prior to arrival at the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Individuals were held in isolated 5 and 56 ha enclosures before release. The cheetahs were fitted with SirTrack GPS/VHF collars and physically tracked for their first year in the wild, allowing exposure to all seasons (n=3). Supplemental food was provided (n=97) to released cheetahs when GPS data indicated an individual hadn’t killed for three to five days. When GPS data indicated potential clusters, trackers investigated these areas and collected data about the species killed (n=75), including sex, age class and habitat type. All field data has been collected and the following results only indicate preliminary analysis. ARC GIS (version 9.3) is currently being used to determine habitat selection, home range sizes and movement patterns of the cheetah. Steenbok Raphicerus campestris appears to be the most selected prey (n=29). Preliminary results indicate average home range size using an adaptive Gaussian kernel to be 861.29 km² (95%) and 101.87 km² (50%) respectively. Average movement distances in the first three months of release were 142.65 km (Month 1), 128.96 km (Month 2) and 72.03 km (Month 3). All findings are comparable to wild occurring cheetah females within the same geographic area. Only two of the seven individuals are confirmed to survive their first year of release, with increased monitoring efforts advised for future release programs.

Tuesday January 26, 2016 3:40pm - 4:00pm EST
Emerald B