Comparing daily, circalunar and seasonal activity patterns of cheetah Acinonyx jubatus in response to livestock presence in Botswana

Kral, Michelle J.C.; Rios Tubio, Pablo; Broekhuis, Femke; Heitkönig, Ignas M.A.; Mbisana, Christopher; Motlhabane, Lucas; Klein, Rebecca; van Langevelde, Frank


Animal activity patterns vary on a daily, circalunar and seasonal scale in response to abiotic (e.g. light availability and temperature) and biotic factors (e.g. predation and competition). In the presence of humans and their livestock, carnivores, for example, have been found to become more nocturnal. The aim of this paper is to compare daily, circalunar and seasonal activity patterns of cheetah Acinonyx jubatus in the western Kalahari of Botswana between areas where there is no livestock present (i.e. game farms with a relatively low risk of cheetah mortality) and areas where livestock is present (i.e. cattle farms with a higher risk of cheetah mortality). Using two years of camera trap data, we recorded 88% of cheetah observations on game farms and 12% on cattle farms. Our results showed that cheetahs were more nocturnal in the absence of cattle and more crepuscular on cattle farms compared to game farms. Overall, cheetah activity on cattle farms showed a peak in activity after inferred cattle activity and before human activity during the day, specifically during the dry season. We recommend management strategies on a local scale such as temporal zoning of grazing activities during the different seasons or keeping cattle in an enclosure at night. This study sheds new light on our understanding of the impact of land use on free-ranging carnivores in the face of livestock expansion on the African continent.