A recent study has discovered that while cheetahs typically hunt during the day, they adjust their hunting schedule to the early morning and evening in warmer climates.
Regrettably, endangered cheetahs are placed in a situation where they are at a higher risk of encountering conflicts with other predators, mainly nocturnal ones like lions and leopards. This is according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B on Wednesday.
According to Briana Abrahms, a co-author of the study and a biologist at the University of Washington, fluctuations in temperature can affect the behavior of large carnivorous animals as well as the interactions between different species.
Although cheetahs exclusively consume fresh meat, lions and leopards may occasionally scavenge from smaller predators when given the chance.
According to Bettina Wachter, a behavioral biologist in charge of the Cheetah Research Project at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, lions and leopards usually hunt for their own prey. However, if they discover a cheetah’s kill, they may attempt to claim it for themselves.
According to Wachter, a researcher from Namibia who was not part of the study, cheetahs will not engage in fights with bigger cats and will simply walk away.
One strategy that has evolved over time to decrease interactions between various predator species in northern Botswana’s mixed savannah and forest environment is hunting at different times throughout the day.
The recent research discovered that during the most sweltering days, with temperatures reaching up to 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit), cheetahs adapted to become more active at night – resulting in a 16% increase in their shared hunting time with competing large felines.
Kasim Rafiq, a biologist from the University of Washington and the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, stated that there is a higher likelihood of negative interactions and decreased food availability for cheetahs.
In the present research, scientists attached GPS tracking devices to 53 big predators such as cheetahs, lions, leopards, and African wild dogs. They documented the animals’ movements and activity levels over a span of eight years and compared it to the highest recorded daily temperatures.
Although the majority of temperature fluctuations in the study period from 2011 to 2018 can be attributed to seasonal cycles, the researchers argue that the observed changes in behavior provide insight into what may occur in a warmer world.
In the upcoming stage of the study, the researchers intend to utilize audio-recording devices and accelerometers – similar to a Fitbit for large felines, according to Rafiq – to record the rate of interactions among large predators.
Besides competing with lions and leopards, cheetahs also experience intense stress due to the fragmentation of their habitat and conflicts with humans.
Cheetahs, the quickest terrestrial animal, are the most uncommon large feline in Africa, with a population of less than 7,000 remaining in the natural habitat.
Wachter, from the Cheetah Research Project, stated that these changes in the climate may have serious consequences in the future. It is forecasted that the temperature in the regions of Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia, where cheetahs reside, will significantly increase.
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