n African Journal of Wildlife Research - Dying for dinner : a cheetah killed by a common duiker illustrates the risk of small prey to predators - short communication

Volume 48 Number 2
  • ISSN : 2410-7220
  • E-ISSN: 2410-8200



The observed avoidance of small prey by large African carnivores is generally interpreted as reflecting the unsustainable trade-off between the nutritional returns against the costs of harvesting such small prey, following optimal foraging theory (e.g. Clements, Tambling, Hayward & Kerley 2014; Elliott, McTaggart Cowan & Holling 1977). By contrast, avoidance of large prey is interpreted as reflecting the risk for the predator associated with attacking such large prey, this risk exceeding the nutritional returns of such a large item (e.g. Clements et al. 2014; Hayward & Kerley 2005). This view is reinforced by the demonstration that the presence of horns reduces the preference of prey relative to body size (Clements, Tambling & Kerley 2016). However, even small prey may present a risk during capture and submission. Such risks are part of predator/prey co-evolution (Sunquist & Sunquist, 1997). The risk of small prey capture is, however, poorly documented and understood, and hence largely ignored. An example of such a risk is provided, and placed in the context of the literature to encourage further debate.

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