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Survival factors in living with lions

Cheetahs thrive, wild dogs don’t…

Increases in the number of top predators like lions do not always affect the number of cheetahs in the area. A recent study looked at the effects of lion populations on other hunters. The number of cheetahs was not affected by the increase in the lion population but wild dogs suffered to the point of local extinction.

The study used historical data accumulated in the Serengeti over a period of 30 years and study of individual animals via radio-collars. During the closing decades of the previous century the number of lions tripled. During the same period the wild dogs left the area or were killed outright while the cheetah population remained stable.
When comparing the findings with data from fenced areas in southern Africa showed the same pattern. Cheetahs can live with lions but wild dogs can’t.

What could be a factor is that lions do not exclusively hunt the same prey as cheetahs and therefore will not always compete at the dinner table. Wild dogs have a wider range of prey animals and can therefore be a greater threat to lions.

Of course the study only addresses certain aspects of inter-species dynamics and does not mention that all three species suffer most from the ultimate apex-predator, humans and their relentless expansion.

Read the study report in the Journal of Animal Ecology

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Cat of the month

Jaguarondi (Herpailurus Yagouaroundi)

The jaguarundi (Herpailurus Yaguarondi) is a medium-sized wild cat. Not related to the jaguar, though the name seems to say otherwise, but it’s closely related to the cougar (puma) and also to the cheetah. It has short legs and an appearance somewhat like an otter; the ears are short and rounded. The coat is unspotted, uniform in colour, and varying from blackish to brownish grey (grey phase) or from foxy red to chestnut (red phase). The cat’s ranges from Southern Texas to South America.

As this cat is closely related to the much larger and heavier cougar, evident by its similar genetic structure and chromosome count count, the jaguarundi is also said to be in the genus Puma although it is more often classified under a separate genus, Herpailurus. Until recently both cats were classified under the genus Felis.

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