Impact of mimicking natural dispersion on breeding success of captive North American Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Sierra J. Gillman, Karen Ziegler-Meeks, Carol Eager, Thomas A. Tenhundfeld, Wendy Shaffstall, Mary Jo Stearns, Adrienne E. Crosier
Zoo Biology
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This paper examines the effects of transfer away from natal facility and littermate presence on cheetah breeding success in the AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP) population. Transfer and breeding history data for captive males and females were gathered from seven and four AZA SSP breeding facilities, respectively, to identify factors influencing breeding success. The results indicate that transfer history (p = 0.032), age at transfer (p = 0.013), and female littermate presence/absence (p = 0.04) was associated with breeding success, with females transferred away from their natal facility before sexual maturity and without littermates present accounting for the highest breeding success. Keeping males at their natal facility and/or removing them from their coalitions did not negatively affect their breeding success. Males appeared to demonstrate the same fecundity regardless of transfer history or coalition status, indicating that dispersal away from natal environment was not as critical for the breeding success of males compared with female cheetahs. These results highlight the significance of moving females away from their natal environment, as would occur in the wild, and separating them from their female littermates for optimization of breeding success in the ex situ population.


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