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Increased fights, Night hunts: Climate change affecting cheetah’s hunting pattern

 Cheetahs, known for their daytime hunting, are now overlapping their hunting hours with rival big cats like lions and leopards by 16 per cent due to rising temperatures


A recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B has underscored the significant impact of climate change on the hunting behaviors of cheetahs, leading to heightened conflicts with other predators. The research, conducted over eight years, involved the placement of GPS tracking collars on 53 large carnivores, including cheetahs, lions, leopards, and African wild dogs. The study revealed that on scorching days, when temperatures soar close to 45 degrees Celsius, cheetahs modify their activity patterns, becoming more nocturnal and overlapping their hunting hours with rival big cats by 16 per cent. This shift sets the stage for potential conflicts with lions and leopards, which are predominantly nocturnal predators.


The observed changes in behavior provide a glimpse into the future of a warming world, with seasonal cycles explaining most temperature fluctuations from 2011 to 2018. Briana Abrahms, a biologist from the University of Washington and co-author of the study, emphasised that changing temperatures can influence the behavior patterns of large carnivores, impacting the dynamics among different species. Lions and leopards, usually predators themselves, may opportunistically scavenge from smaller predators like cheetahs.


Cheetahs, recognised as the fastest land animals and the rarest big cats in Africa with fewer than 7,000 remaining in the wild, are already under severe pressure from habitat fragmentation and conflicts with humans. The study’s findings underscore the critical nature of these climate-induced changes for cheetah survival, particularly in regions where they inhabit, including Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia.


Looking ahead, the next phase of research aims to use audio-recording devices and accelerometers to document the frequency of encounters between large carnivores. This will provide further insights into how climate change is affecting predator interactions and the survival of endangered species like the cheetah.

Increased fights, Night hunts: Climate change affecting cheetah’s hunting pattern

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