Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cheetah menu: wildlife instead of cattle

28.08.2014

Scientists from the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) can give the all-clear: in a recent study they showed that cheetahs primarily prefer wildlife on their menu. The cheetah is a vulnerable species that only exists on Namibia’s commercial farmland in large populations. Here, local farmers see cheetahs as a potential threat for their cattle.

The conflict is an old one: wherever there are carnivorous wild animals, farmers are concerned about their livestock. In Namibia, the concern refers to the possible threat from cheetahs on cattle. When farmers in Namibia are missing a bovine calf, cheetahs are regularly under suspicion – nowhere else in the world are there as many animals of this vulnerable species as on commercial farmland in Namibia. But the suspicion can rarely be confirmed without demur.


Blood collection of a free-ranging cheetah on Namibian farmland for stable isotope analyses.

Photo: IZW/Gabor Czirjak

In their recent study, scientists of the IZW investigated whether cattle is on top of the cheetahs’ menu. For this purpose they used an indirect method with which they were able to assess the diet over longer periods. “Traditionally, carnivore diet is determined by examining samples of fresh faeces. Faecal samples only provide a snapshot of the diet, based on the detected hair and bone samples of prey animals. One cannot therefore conclude which food items cheetahs devour in the long run”, explains Christian Voigt from the IZW.

Instead the scientists used samples of cheetah hair to determine the stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen. Herbivores have different food webs. One is based on shrubs, trees and herbs whose photosynthesis contains intermediate products with three carbon atoms (C3).

In contrast, grasses exhibit a C4 photosynthesis. These food webs can be differentiated with the help of the involved carbon isotopes. Herbivores typically only belong to one food web and the isotope ratio hence deposits in their body tissue. Small antelopes such as springbok or steenbok specialise on shrubs and herbs whereas the oryx antelope feeds on grass – just like the cattle. One step up in the food chain the isotope ratio of the prey transfers to its predator.

The study shows that herbivores of the C4 food chain, to which cattle belong, are nearly irrelevant to the cheetah’s diet. Grazers are only occasionally considered as prey by males when they occur in groups of two or three animals.

In this project the IZW scientists collaborated closely with the farmers. “We live with the farmers on their farmland and share our scientific results with them. In this way, we attain a very high acceptance”, emphasises Bettina Wachter. “The farmers passed on their experience in dealing with these big cats, as cheetahs cannot be simply lured with bait like many other carnivores”, she adds.

This is owed to the fact that cheetahs only eat prey they brought down themselves. Thus, aided by the farmers, the scientists installed box traps at marking trees, which were hidden by thorn bushes except for a narrow passage. The only way to reach their tree is passing the trap. Once a cheetah is captured it is sedated and thoroughly examined: body length and weight are determined, samples of blood and hair are taken and then the scientists release the cheetah equipped with a tracking collar.

“We conclude that the farmer’s problems are smaller than they had assumed before this study”, Voigt sums up. This study, published in the scientific online journal PLOS ONE, will contribute to the protection of cheetahs – but not in adversity to the interest of the farmers. “We understand their position. The concepts of species conversation always need to be balanced against the livelihood of humans”, says Wachter. The study is therefore an important mile stone to resolve the conflict between farmers and cheetahs.

Publication:
Voigt CC, Thalwitzer S, Melzheimer J, Blanc A-S, Jago M, Wachter B: (2014): The conflict between cheetahs and humans on Namibian farmland elucidated by stable isotope diet analysis. PLOS ONE 10.1371/journal.pone.0101917.

Contact
Leibniz Institute for Zoo- and Wildlife Research (IZW)
Alfred-Kowalke-Str. 17
10315 Berlin
Germany

Christian C. Voigt
Tel.: +49 30 5168-517
voigt@izw-berlin.de

Bettina Wachter
Tel.: +49 30 5168-518
wachter@izw-berlin.de

Steven Seet (press officer)
Tel.: +49 30 5168-125
seet@izw-berlin.de

Background information:
The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) investigates the vitality and adaptability of wildlife populations in mammalian and avian species of outstanding ecological interest that face anthropogenic challenges. It studies the adaptive value of traits in the life cycle of wildlife, wildlife diseases and clarifies the biological basis and development of methods for the protection of threatened species. Such knowledge is a precondition for a scientifically based approach to conservation and for the development of concepts for the ecologically sustainable use of natural resources. The IZW belongs to the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (www.fv-berlin.de)
www.izw-berlin.de

Karl-Heinz Karisch | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

nachricht Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New insights into the world of trypanosomes

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

New Test for Rare Immunodeficiency

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>