Large Predators such as cheetah Acinonyx jubatus, leopard Panthera pardus, and brown hyena Hyaena brunnea are often found in farming areas and in the case of the cheetah are found at much higher densities in these agricultural zones than in conservation areas (Winterbach 2001; Marker 2002). The reduced competition and kleptoparitism by lion Panthera leo and spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta, aids its survival. However, its presence on farmland leads to increased conflict with humans, resulting in human persecution being the largest cause of adult cheetah death (Marker et al., 2003). An accurate estimate of population density is essential for the management and protection of endangered species, such as the cheetah, which is listed as vulnerable by IUCN
(IUCN, 2007). Population numbers of cheetah in protected areas are often considered to be low and understanding their dynamics and population trends on farmland is essential to their survival. A previous study calculated large predator numbers in Ghanzi in a mixed farming area comprised of both cattle and game farms (Houser et al., 2007). However, the relative importance of cattle versus game farmland, in conjunction with available prey, requires further research. In this study, the indirect method of spoor surveying was used to estimate large predator populations on cattle and game farmland in Ghanzi, Botswana.
The spoor survey was conducted in Ghanzi one of the largest farmland areas of Botswana. The Ghanzi area is classified as hardveld with some sandveld sections, and vegetation ranges from bush to open tree savannah. Wild game includes common duiker, Sylvicapra grimmia, steenbok, Raphicerus campestris and kudu Tragelaphus strepsiceros whilst game farms contain a mixture of large and small antelope with large springbok, Antidorcas marsupialis and impala Aepyceros melampus populations. The area has reported high levels of human-predator conflict, and predator removals though legal hunting and problem animal removal and illegal hunting, poaching and poisoning occurs regularly. Lion and spotted hyena are rare and transient (with the exception of the farms bordering the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, CKGR), African wild dog Lacoon pictus are more common but also transient, whilst leopard, cheetah and brown hyena are resident to the area. Two surveys were conducted simultaneously on game farmland and cattle farmland. The game area was North-West of Ghanzi town and the cattle area was South-West of the town.
The game survey area (GPS – S -21.66 , E 21.39) was ca. 408km2 and encompassed 4 farms. At commencement of the study 2 farms (317.6 km2) were actively stocked with game, and 1.5 farms (64.8 km2) were not in use and contained free moving wild game, whilst 25.6 km2 (6% of total area) had recently been converted to cattle farmland. Game was introduced to 47km2 of the unused farmland half way through the study, therefore at completion of the survey 89% of the area was actively stocked with game. Despite different owners the area had the same manager and was used for hunting, photographic safaris and personal use. The farms were divided by game or cattle fencing, enabling the free movement of predators through warthog holes and over or under fences. Cheetah, Leopard and brown hyena were known to be present in the area but cheetah populations had suffered high disturbance during the previous year when 10 cheetah (in 6 separate incidences) were translocated from the area due to farmer pressure between November 2006 to June 2007.