Studying Large Carnivores with GPS Technology: Cheetah Research Project
From the annual report submitted to the Government of Botswana by The Botswana Predator Conservation Program (Dr. J. W. “Tico” McNutt, Director)
In the last 12 months we were able to identify four adult female cheetahs that regularly roam through the study area that comprises Moremi Game Reserve and the adjacent Wildlife Management Areas. All females have been seen with cubs ranging between 3 and 10 months or in an advanced pregnancy status. This indicates that the local sub-population is healthy and successfully reproducing. Further research will allow us to assess the survival rate of the cubs. We were also able to identify two coalitions of two cheetah males each. Most likely due to the calving of the impalas and the resulting relatively high abundance of comparatively easy prey at year’s end, all cheetahs are well fed and in good conditions.
Figure 4. GPS locations for two male cheetahs over a period of 68 days (red dots) and 22 days (yellow dots). The “red” cheetah covers a territory of 280 km2. Both cheetahs show a preference for the open habitats (blue and green) associated with the Gomoti and Mogogelo rivers south of the “mopane tongue” (brown). The two adult females with VHF collars have extremely large ranges approximated by the shaded areas.
At present four of these identified individuals are collared. Two females are fitted with traditional VHF radio collars and two males (one in each coalition) are fitted with GPS radio collars. Both sexes range over large territories of several hundred kilometers. One of the two GPS collared males has a territory size of 280 kilometers (fig.2). The size of the territory is however likely to increase as more GPS fixes are collected. This translates in an overall low population density for the study area. More data are however required to assess the degree of overlap between individuals and accurately estimate the population density. The GPS data of both males also show a significant preference for the open habitats associated with the Gomoti and Mogogelo rivers south of the “mopane tongue” in the Moremi Reserve (fig. 2).