An insight into the prey spectra and livestock predation by cheetahs in Kenya using faecal DNA metabarcoding

David Thuo, Femke Broekhuis, Elise Furlan, Laura D. Bertola, Joseph Kamau, Dianne M. Gleeson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Dietary composition is a fundamental part of animal ecology and an important component of population dynamics. Therefore, obtaining accurate information on what an animal consumes is important for conservation planning, especially for wild large carnivores that exist in human-dominated landscapes where they are prone to direct conflicts with local people. We used faecal DNA metabarcoding to identify the vertebrate taxa commonly predated on by cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) with an emphasis on domestic taxa and determine the drivers of livestock predation by cheetahs residing in the Maasai Mara and Amboseli ecosystems which are important population strongholds in southern Kenya. From 84 cheetah faeces that we analysed, a total of 14 prey taxa were identified, including birds, wild and domestic mammals. The livestock taxa identified in cheetah faeces occurred at moderate frequency (12.8%) and the results showed that livestock predation was influenced neither by the sex of the cheetah nor by season. In general, our study shows that cheetahs prey on a diverse range of prey taxa including birds, wild ungulates of various sizes and occasionally on domestic animals, and that the faecal DNA metabarcoding approach represents a valuable complement to traditional dietary analysis methods.

Original languageEnglish
Article number125853
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalZoology
Volume143
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

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