, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 281-285
Date: 22 Jan 2013

Social and genetic population structure of free-ranging cheetah in Botswana: implications for conservation

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Abstract

Once widely distributed throughout Africa, cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) occur today within fragmented populations and are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. Botswana currently hosts the second largest cheetah population throughout the species’ range. This study initiated a molecular genetic survey of wild Botswana cheetah populations. It focused on the relatedness within presumed social groups using 14 microsatellite markers and revealed a higher proportion of unrelated male coalitions than was expected. Based on the unrelated cheetahs only, the estimation of the genetic variation corresponded with results from recent studies on different African populations. The analysis of unrelated individuals indicated limited genetic differentiation between cheetahs from different regions of Botswana. This suggests that the Botswana cheetah population might represent a unique panmictic population as long as sufficient levels of gene flow are maintained within the distribution range. This baseline information will now be incorporated to develop management strategies and set priorities for cheetah conservation in Botswana.

Communicated by C. Gortázar
Desiré L Dalton and Pauline Charruau have equally contributed to the work.