The cheetah is an atypical member of the cat family that
is unique in its speed, while lacking climbing abilities.
The species is the only living member of the genus Acinonyx.
It is the fastest land animal, reaching speeds between 112
and 120 km/h (70 and 75 mph) in short bursts covering distances
up to 460 m (1,510 ft), and has the ability to accelerate
from 0 to 103 km/h (64 mph) in three seconds, faster than
most supercars. The cheetah is a vulnerable species. Out of
all the big cats, it is the least able to adapt to new environments.
It has always proved difficult to breed in captivity, although
recently a few zoos have managed to succeed at this. Once
widely hunted for its fur, the cheetah now suffers more from
the loss of both habitat and prey. The cheetah was formerly
considered to be particularly primitive among the cats and
to have evolved approximately 18 million years ago. New research,
however, suggests that the last common ancestor of all 40
existing species of felines lived more recently than that—about
11 million years ago.
Preservation of Cheetahs
Cheetahs are amongst the most incredible animals on
earth. Built for great speed, Cheetahs are specialists
when it comes to hunting fast, agile prey animals in
broad daylight. Capable of reaching from zero to hundred
kilometers an hour within a matter of seconds, these
cats have evolved into developing a sleek and slender
physique that aids them in their highly specialized
lifestyle. Whilst a long and thin body enables Cheetahs
to be fast and athletic, this also means that they are
lighter and weaker when it comes to conflicts with other
large predators of Africa, including lions, hyenas and
leopards. The bigger animals waste no opportunity to
steal a Cheetah's kill or kill its cubs.
Cheetahs face other threats too. The most significant
ones in the last few decades have been conflicts with
human and loss of habitat. As human population and development
increases in Africa, Cheetahs are finding it increasingly
difficult to survive and take down their normal prey
animals. As a result, they often go after herds of cattle
owned by farmers. This brings them into conflict with
people who at times shoot the big cats in retaliation.
Then there is the problem of limited genetic diversity
in Cheetahs. Cheetahs have evolved from a relatively
restricted gene pool and face multiple biological threats
owing to this. They are susceptible to diseases and
genetic defects and infant mortality is high. As a result
Cheetahs are the most endangered of the three big cats
There are a handful of Asiatic Cheetahs in Iran too
and research is being conducted to preserve them in
their natural habitat. It remains to be soon, though
if the successful efforts of Cheetah Conservation Fund
can be replicated to help save the beautiful cats there.
The need above all is to better educate the natives,
in parts where Cheetahs coexist with humans around the
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