Comparison of 2 behavioral sampling methods to establish a time budget in a captive female cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

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Abstract

Behavioral studies of wild animals kept in captivity provide useful information for conservation programs and animal welfare. These studies can also be time and resource consuming. For this reason, the aim of this study was to develop an ethogram for a semi-imprinted cheetah, during lactation and kept in captivity, and to compare 2 behavioral sampling methods to construct a time budget. During the first 34 days of the study, ad libitum sampling was used for describing observed behaviors, which allowed development of an ethogram. During the following 30 days, focal sampling with continuous recording and focal sampling with time sampling (instantaneous sampling) every 60 seconds, aided by 3 cameras, was applied to determine the behavioral time budget. An ethogram composed of 8 categories and 22 behaviors was developed. The cheetah allocated most of her time to resting while lying down with her cubs, the most frequent behavioral category assessed by both methods. Pearson's correlation was significant (P < 0.05) for 11 of the 22 behaviors, but only 2 presented a moderate correlation according to the r value (pacing and eating chicken). Allocoprophagia and pacing with cubs were behaviors described for the first time in cheetahs. These behaviors could be indicative of the inability to perform basic, normal behaviors and may represent a welfare concern. For future studies, the use of cameras located in previously detected areas of use with continuous recording could provide the best method for behavioral studies in captive felids.

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