Lions, cheetahs, and dogs, oh my! (Continued)

Last month, I wrote about how, despite lions killing cheetah cubs left and right, they don’t seem to be suppressing cheetah population size like they do for wild dogs. And, that despite all this killing, that cheetahs don’t seem to be avoiding lions – but I didn’t have radio-collar data for wild dogs.

Well, now I do!

Although we’ve had collared lions continuously since 1984, Serengeti cheetahs and wild dogs were only collared from 1985-1990. We worked with Tim Caro, former director of the cheetah project, to access the historic cheetah data a year ago, but it was only a month ago that we finally tracked down the historic wild dog data. Thanks to a tip by a former Frankfurt Zoological Society employee, we found the data tucked away in the recesses of one of their Serengeti-based storage containers – and Craig braved a swarm of very angry bees to retrieve it!

The good news is that the data was totally worth it. Just like we suspected, even though cheetahs didn’t seem to be avoiding lions, wild dogs were. This map shows lion densities in the background, with cheetah (in brown dots) and wild dog (black triangles) locations overlaid on the lion densities.

Lions, cheetahs, and wild dogs from when all three species were radiocollared.

Lions, cheetahs, and wild dogs from when all three species were radio-collared in Serengeti.

It’s a pretty cool contrast. Even though lions kill cheetah cubs left and right, cheetahs do not avoid lions, nor do their populations decline as lions increase. In sharp contrast, wild dogs do avoid lions, and their populations also drop as lions increase. Now, that’s not to say that there weren’t other factors influencing the decline of wild dogs in Serengeti, but across Africa, this pattern seems to hold.

Speaking of wild dogs, has any one seen any in Season 6?


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About ali swanson

I'm an ecologist studying how large carnivores coexist. I spend way too much of my time trying to stop hyenas and elephants from munching my camera traps!

4 responses to “Lions, cheetahs, and dogs, oh my! (Continued)”

  1. wildebeesty says :

    I haven’t seen a wild dog since season 4. Are you going to radio collar the cheetahs and wild dogs again ???

    • ali swanson says :

      Can you send the photo that might be a wild dog? We don’t think there were any in the system before they were reintroduced by TANAPA in Season 5. Unfortunately, as much as we’d love to collar the other large carnivores, current park regulations prohibit it in Serengeti. There are some cool systems in Botswana and South Africa and Zambia that have GPS collars on the entire assemblage of species though!

  2. Larry says :

    Ali: In looking at the data on the lion/cheetah/wild dog plot it occurred to me that the cheetahs may get more benefit that harm from being close to the lions. Do wild dogs prey on cheetah cubs? Could it be that the wild dogs, in avoiding the lions, don’t predate the cheetah cubs, thereby benefiting the cheetahs?

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