Tracking free-roaming cheetahs outside protected areas of South Africa

Large dataset of free-roaming cheetahs provides new information on the range of this vulnerable species

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 3,165 species occurrences
Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)
Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) by william_wallden via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Two of South Africa's cheetah populations exist in protected areas, while a third roams free on privately owned ranchland outside protected areas. Under continuous threat from illegal wildlife trade and retaliatory killings by ranch owners to protect livestock, this populations is, however, the largest in South Africa.

During a tracking progamme of nearly six years, researchers trapped nine free-roaming cheetahs, six males and three females, and fitted them with tracking collars. The cheetahs were then released and tracked for the remainder of their lives (or the life of the collar).

At the conclusion of the programme, four animals had been shot and one killed on the road, while one male, tracked for nearly six years had died of natural causes. The fate of the remaining three animals was unknown. The dataset, published in entirety to GBIF, revealed that ranges of free-roaming cheetahs covered on average 18 ranches, and that male cheetahs had slightly larger ranges than females.

Marnewick K, Page-Nicholson S, Roxburgh L and Somers M (2017) Tracking data from nine free-roaming Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) collared in the Thabazimbi area, Limpopo Province, South Africa. Biodiversity Data Journal. Pensoft Publishers 5: e11323. Available at:

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