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Habituation to Humans

Metapopulation Cheetah are generally habituated to humans and / or vehicles. In 24 of the 39 reserves surveyed rangers can drive or walk to within 10 meters of their Cheetah. Reserve managers often stress the importance of sourcing habituated Cheetah to maximise their tourism value. They cite the importance of the boma period in habituating Cheetah so that they can cover their costs through good game viewing experiences.

Cheetah can be habituated in the boma period by:

  1. visiting them on a daily basis and exposing them to human sounds
  2. leaving game drive vehicles on the outskirts of the boma with the reserve radio on
  3. walking the cheetah in the boma. Note that children should not walk cheetah under any circumstances

Cheetah lose their habituation to humans when they are not regularly seen by tourists or reserve staff. This often occurs on larger reserves with less developed road networks. Free roaming cheetah that colonise metapopulation reserves are not habituated and bolt at the sight of humans. These cheetah have minimal tourism value but are vitally important in maintaining a level of gene flow between the Metapopulation and the free roaming population.

Whilst habituated cheetah have higher tourism value, it is important that these animals remain ecologically functional. Captive cheetah and / or cheetah that do not hunt for themselves have minimal conservational value. Metapopulation cheetah should hunt and fend for themselves. Supplementary feeding should only take place in exceptional cases. Reports have been received of cheetah becoming too reliant on supplementary feeding, to the extent that they enter lodge areas. Once cheetah reach this level of habituation they should be removed from the reserve to ensure guest safety. Such cheetah should be relocated to large non-tourism reserves with very low human densities.

Reserve managers often claim that the perfect metapopulation cheetah is:

  1. fully self sufficient
  2. predator adapted
  3. habituated to humans