Selective predation and prey class behaviour as possible mechanisms explaining cheetah impacts on kudu demographics
A number of predator–prey studies show that certain prey demographic classes are targeted over others. The possible mechanisms driving these effects can be two-fold. Firstly, a preference for a certain demographic class results in selective predation by a predator. Secondly, different demographic classes exhibit varied behaviour and thus susceptibility to predation risk. To test these mechanisms, a study was conducted on Samara Private Game Reserve to investigate the potential impact cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) predation has had on the kudu (Tragelaphus strepciseros) population. Kudu age and sex data were collected across both predator-present and predator-absent sections using a spotlight-count method. Results suggest that juvenile kudu and subadult male kudu are selectively hunted by cheetah. This was reflected in significantly lower proportions of these two demographic classes within the predator-present section (both 6.0%, respectively) compared with the predator-absent section (16.8% and 17.4%, respectively). These findings indicate that the shift in the demographics of the kudu population within Samara could be explained by a combination of these two mechanisms.
Keywords: kudu demographics, population, prey preference, selective predation