The current status of the cheetah Acinonyx jubatus outside formal conservation areas in South Africa is undetermined. The largest part of the cheetah population in South Africa occurs on cattle and wildlife ranches. Conflict between cheetahs and landowners is common and cheetahs are often persecuted. Cheetah management and conservation efforts are hampered as little data are available on the free-roaming cheetah population. A questionnaire survey was done in the Thabazimbi district of the Limpopo province to collect data on the status and distribution of cheetahs in the district and on the ranching practices and attitudes of landowners. By using this method, a population estimate of 42 – 63 cheetahs was obtained. Camera trapping was done at a scent-marking post to investigate the marking behaviour of cheetahs. Seven different cheetahs were identified marking at one specific tree. Scat analyses were done to determine prey use of the cheetahs in the study area. The most common prey remains from the scats were of the grey duiker Sylvicapra grimmia and the impala Aepyceros melampus. VORTEX analyses were used to investigate the long-term viability of the cheetah population as well as the viability of sport hunting of cheetahs. The current Thabazimbi population is viable over 100 years without immigration, but after 200 years extinction probabilities become unacceptably high. Harvesting through sport hunting is only viable if staggered over several years. Several factors influencing the survival of the free-roaming cheetah population are also discussed.
Dissertation (MSc (Wildlife Management))--University of Pretoria, 2007.