Cheetah of the Serengeti Plains: A home range analysis

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2005-11-11

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Virginia Tech

Abstract

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) persist under continued conservation threat in small populations mostly in protected areas in an historically reduced geographic range. Home range, a useful trait for threat assessment, species reintroduction, and population estimation, is plastic in cheetah with sizes ranging from 40 km2 to over 1000 km2 depending on location. Previous home range estimates for cheetah used the minimum convex polygon (MCP), assuming asymptotic home ranges and MCP insensitivity to sample size. They reported metrics of home range size and overlap based on only outline methods. I use 6 481 observations of 240 female and 315 male cheetah from > 60 matrilines over 25 years in the Serengeti Plains to investigate lifetime, core, yearly, and seasonal range size with kernel density estimation. I investigate autocorrelation using time to statistical independence of locations. I confront the assumption of asymptotic home ranges by testing the traditional and multiscaled home range predictions and provide a novel method for determining kernel asymptotes. I challenge the notion of Serengeti cheetah as a migratory carnivore with analyses of site fidelity and objectively defined core ranges. I assess year to year and seasonal location shifts, showing that yearly shifting lessens as females age. I provide quantitative evidence for philopatry in female- and juvenile dispersal in male cheetah of the Serengeti Plains. I use simple overlap metrics to show that overlap in lifetime and core ranges is greater in related than unrelated female pairs. I use multi-response permutation procedures (MRPP) to show that overlap in unrelated female pairs varies with season. I use correlation of utilization distributions to show that avoidance is apparent only in unrelated pairs of females. My results call into question previous MCP estimates of cheetah home range size, and provide guidance for future sampling of cheetah locations. My home range results will guide management of this imperiled species and my methodological findings may be general and applicable to a wide range of taxa.

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Acinonyx jubatus, kernel, asymptote, migration, philopatry, overlap

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