Latin name: Acinonyx jubatus
The cheetah is the fastest running mammal in the world,
reaching speeds of up to 100 km/hour. From standstill
to a sprint they can reach 70 km/hour in 2 seconds,
then 100 km/hour in just 3 seconds! The cheetah can
only run at these high speeds for 300 / 400 meters before
having to stop, if not it could cause possible overheating
of its body. The body of a cheetah is built for speed.
They have small heads for less air resistance, very
large nostrils to allow maximum oxygen intake to fuel
their muscles, a slender build with long legs and a
tail that flattens towards the end to act as a rudder
to help keep its balance while running at high speed.
The cheetah is not very powerful compared to most other
large predators, so it needs its prey to run in order
to use the prey's momentum to pull it down to the ground.
When chasing after its prey, the cheetah uses its dew
claw to hook onto the animal's lower leg to try trip
it. If successful, it then uses its jaws to suffocate
the prey by a bite to the neck or by using is mouth
to cover the prey's whole muzzle, which prevents the
animal from making too much noise while being suffocated.
Too much noise from its prey in distress may attract
the attention of unwanted visitors such as hyenas and
lions that will inevitably steal the cheetahs kill,
as the cheetah would rather flee than defend it.
The cheetah being a rather weak predator loses up to
90% of its kills to lion, hyena, leopard and even packs
of jackals, so when a kill is made it quickly eats as
much of the soft meat as possible before it is stolen.
The larger predators are more active at night and sleep
during the warmer daylight hours making it a lot safer
for cheetah hunt during the day. A possible adaptation
that the cheetah has is the black tear lines that start
around the edges of the eyes, running down to the outer
edges of the mouth. The dark colour aids its vision
by absorbing excess light, thus preventing too much
glare into the eyes.
The female, after a gestation of 90 95 days gives birth
to 3, sometimes 4 cubs. The colouration of the cubs
seems to resemble that of the honey badger. The upper
part of the body is white to grey in colour with the
lower parts almost black. The manner, in which the youngsters
walk, is very similar to that of the honey badger.
Many animals including large predators are very wary
of honey badgers, as they have earned a reputation for
being rather aggressive and tough to kill. For the cheetah's
cubs to mimic such a fierce animal is a great advantage,
as this may increase their chances of survival against
other predators for the first few weeks after birth.
By 12 15 months of age the cub's colouration is much
the same as the adults.
Unfortunately the survival rate of cheetah cubs is
very low with a possible 1 in every three cubs living
to 2 years of age. Many cubs are killed by the larger
predators, especially in the first few weeks after birth,
so to keep the cubs as safe as possible the female moves
the cubs from hiding place to another every 3 or 4 days.
A female with cubs needs to hunt on a regular basis
and as they grow older she may need to hunt every day,
especially if she has 3 or 4 cubs. From the age of 6
months the female starts teaching the cubs to hunt and
by 14 months the cubs regularly join the female on hunts.
By 16 18 months the cubs are ready to hunt by themselves
which is also the time when they are chased away by
their mother, to be independent of her for the first
Due to the excessive trophy hunting of the past, the
cheetah population in many game reserves is seriously
low. The Kruger National park's cheetah numbers are
currently dwindling on about 300 individuals, resulting
in a very weak gene-pool. Namibia has the highest population
of between 6000 and 9000.
Fortunately there are a number of breeding programs
which have had relative success in breeding and introducing
cheetah into the wild and by introducing specimens from
Namibia into these breeding projects it helps to strengthen
the gene-pool and give hope for the future survival
of the cheetah.
About te Author
I am an ex-game ranger from South Africa. I have 2 awesome
blogs packed with information on all sorts of wildlife
in Africa. I also talk about encounters with dangerous
game while doing bush walks. Visit my Blogs to find
out more: http://www.safari-stories.blogspot.com