Summary. When Thomsons gazelles (Gazella thomsoni) detect stalking predators, such as cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) and lions (Panthera leo), they often approach and follow the predator for up to 72min (average 14min). Coursing predators are rarely approached. Gazelle groups were more likely to approach cheetahs if the groups were larger, if the vegetation was low, or if the cheetahs came closer to the group. Immature gazelles were more likely to approach than adults, and a higher proportion of group members participated in inspection behaviour in small groups than in large ones. Gazelles approached closer in less risky situations: if they were in larger groups or if the vegetation was low. Inspection behaviour caused cheetahs to move further between rests and between hunting attempts. Approaching cheetahs was risky, particularly for younger gazelles (probability of being killed while inspecting a cheetah was 1 in 5000 approaches for adults and 1 in 417 approaches for half-grown/adolescent gazelles), and the risks were higher than monitoring cheetahs from a distance. The time costs of predator inspection were also considerable (less than 4.2% of daylight time budget), suggesting that the benefits must be substantial to offset these costs. The results suggested that inspection behaviour was multifunctional, causing stalking predators to move out of the vicinity, enabling gazelles to monitor the predators movements, and providing an opportunity, particularly for younger animals, to learn about predators. By approaching, gazelles also inform predators that they have been detected and alert other gazelles to the predators presence.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.