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Social behaviour and personality assessment as a tool for improving the management of cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) in captivity

Chadwick, C 2014, Social behaviour and personality assessment as a tool for improving the management of cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) in captivity , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Abstract

The wild cheetah population is rapidly declining, and the captive population is not self-sustaining. This is of great concern for cheetah conservation and the latter might indicate underlying captive welfare concerns. This research measured the behaviour and personality of cheetahs held in zoo exhibits in the UK and beyond, to investigate the effects of social group housing and personality on the behaviour and reproductive success of captive cheetahs. Behavioural observation indicated that the natural social groupings of wild male cheetahs can be replicated in captivity. Group-housed males displayed frequent affiliative behaviours and few instances of aggression. Females, naturally solitary in the wild, might also be safely housed in groups since overt aggression was seldom recorded. However pacing behaviour, typically associated with poor welfare, was more prevalent in unnatural-type groups. Relatedness appears to be an important factor in captive cheetah social interactions. A new method for correcting indices of association, developed in this research, allowed association indices to be compared for dyads housed in different sized exhibits. Related individuals were observed in proximity more frequently, and displayed higher rates of affiliative interactions, than unrelated individuals. These findings may have welfare implications in the event that captive individuals are separated for management purposes. Social group housing and personality can affect captive cheetah reproductive success. The personality profiles of individuals in successful breeding pairs were more divergent than those of individuals in unsuccessful pairs. In addition, it appears that zoos housing their cheetahs in social groups that occur in wild populations have better institutional breeding success than those housing their cheetahs in unnatural-type groups. This research uncovers some of the factors which may contribute to the poor reproductive success of the captive cheetah population, and offers recommendations for improvements to current cheetah management practices.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: O'Hara, S (Supervisor)
Themes: Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences > Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre
Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences
Depositing User: Carly Chadwick
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2014 15:24
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2015 23:53
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/31793

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