Characterisation of pelage patterns of leopard (Panthera pardus) and cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)
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This study characterized the pelage spots on limbs and flanks, with the aim of generating information with potential to guide analysis and interpretation of photographic images captured during field activities to support leopards and cheetahs conservation. Four parameters were used for characterization and these were: area, perimeter, roundness and elongation. These parameters were estimated using an image processing algorithm implemented in MATLAB. The images for processing were captured from the leopard and cheetah at Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center. For the cheetah, six images were captured corresponding to the right flank, left flank and the four limbs. In contrast, three images corresponding to right flank, right fore and hind limbs were captured for the leopard. With respect to the cheetah, no significant differences in area and perimeter of spots were observed between the flanks (P<0.05). Moreover, no significant differences were observed in roundness of spots from fore limbs. In addition, no differences in elongation were observed for spots from hind limbs.For the leopard, results showed that roundness, area and perimeter of spots from right flank and right fore limb were not significantly different. The findings of this study highlight which parameters are likely to be more reliable when examining images captured from the field for the respective species. Particularly, for the cheetah, the findings of this study suggest that roundness, area and perimeter parameters could be more reliable when analyzing images of flanks whereas elongation would be suitable for hind limbs and roundness for fore limbs. In contrast, the findings of this study suggest that roundness, area and perimeter may be preferable parameters while analyzing images of right fore limb and right flank in leopard.