It is widely held that cheetahs are prone to high cub mortality rates, mainly due to predation by lions. This perception resulted from a landmark study on the Serengeti Plains, which found that only 4.8% of cheetah cubs survived, indicating that areas where large carnivores need to co-exist may not be suitable for cheetah conservation. However, a recent study by Michael G.L. Mills and Margaret E.J. Mills, published in Journal of Zoology, has revealed that survival of cheetah cubs in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was seven times higher than on the Serengeti Plains. Although predation was the most common form of mortality, there was no evidence of lion predation, indicating that a range of other predators could also be involved. Moreover, the authors suggest that scrutiny of the Serengeti data does not unequivocally prove the dominance of lions as predators of cheetah cubs there, and conclude that predation is an integral part of cheetah dynamics.
Importantly, the paper challenges the belief that cheetah cub mortality is always inordinately high, and that lions are their major predator. The results suggest that cheetahs can potentially coexist successfully in protected areas with other large carnivores. This paper sheds new light on ecological relations in carnivore community ecology that could influence long-term conservation planning for cheetahs.