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How to Avoid Becoming a Meal for a Cheetah

by Scientific American
January 6th 2021
Researchers help farmers in Namibia avoid costly cattle losses by tracking big cat hangouts
This podcast is sponsored in part by P. N s science sessions from Asian giant hornets to artificial intelligence. Science sessions are short in depth conversations with the world's most brilliant scientific minds. Listen to science sessions on iTunes, Spotify, Google, play stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. This is Scientific Americans. 60 seconds. Science. I'm Jason Goldman. The Cheetah is the rarest big cat in Africa. Less than 7000 adults remain on the planet. Think of it this way. For every cheetah on the planet, there's more than four Starbucks coffee shops. The most important cheetah stronghold is in central Namibia, but the cheetahs they're don't live within national parks. They live on privately owned farmland. There were farmers having huge problems with cheetahs, losing a lot of livestock. And

there are other farmers who actually didn't have any problem at all. Ecologist Yorg Melsheimer, from the live in its Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, assumed at first that all farmers had cheated trouble. It was just that some were more likely to complain about it. But after tracking 50 collard cheetahs, he began to suspect that there really was a pattern to their killing. By the time his team had data from 106 cheetahs colored over the course of a decade, not on Lee was he certain that cheetahs were more likely to kill in some places than in others, but that he could solve the problem. We indeed found these communication hubs off Cheaters, which has spread evenly across the landscape with a high activity of cheetahs within the hub's cheetahs, are in a social species, but they still need to trade information. But they don't meet physically, typically not. But they leave marks at prominent landmarks, where they

either use urine or feces to communicate with each other. Think of it as a coffee shop for cats, where animals trade gossip. Even though these communication hubs Onley comprise around 10% of the landscape, she does spend most, sometimes all of their time within them. This is basically a long term tradition, which is passed on from cheetah generation to cheetah generation. Some of these communication hubs are basically known, or, let's say, the marking location the marking trees were known by farmers for 60 70 years. Like the grandfather off the current farm already knew the marking trees in this area. What the farmers never realized is that Onley some farms overlap with the cheetahs Communication hubs. Um, Alzheimer thought that if those farmers relocated their most vulnerable herds, it could be a huge help. He remembers the first farmer he tried to convince, and I told

him, Look, Wilfred, I have I have the idea that they are actually there because of these marking trees, and you happen to have your small caps exactly in the same area. Let's try to move your herds out of this area and keep them somewhere else. And then let's measure their losses. And it was laughing at me. He said, Yeah, nice idea, but I'm not sure there is going to work. They will probably follow the cast. So we tried this and actually it worked. And he earned much more money because he lost less Kaffes. After that, 35 more farmers agreed to try it out. In all, the number of calves lost to cheat depredation fell by a whopping 86%. Of course, some cattle outside of communication hubs were still lost two cheetahs, but it was at a low enough level that most farmers seemed to tolerate it. What this means is that cheetahs aren't actively following the cattle. They simply take advantage of whatever food is available

nearby. If it's not cattle, then they go after wild ungulates like Springbok or oryx. Orkut do. There are no so called problem cheetahs who intentionally seek out cattle. Instead, there are problem areas. That's a much easier problem to solve. And it's one that doesn't result in farmers killing cheetahs. Um, Alzheimer is now hard at work collecting tracking data from cheetahs in other parts of Africa to see whether his findings hold up in other ecosystems so often it seems as if the goals of wildlife conservation are incompatible with the goals of commerce. But this story reveals that, in fact, biodiversity and agriculture can coexist. Our case is really one of these nice example where it can go hand in hand. Thanks for listening for scientific Americans. 62nd Science. I'm Jason Goldman,

How to Avoid Becoming a Meal for a Cheetah
How to Avoid Becoming a Meal for a Cheetah
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