The Africa Adventure Company

Cheetah

Cheetah

Scientific Name : Acinonyx jubatus

Built for speed, the cheetah is the world’s fastest land mammal and has been reliably clocked at over 60 miles per hour. These lithe cats favour open habitats where gazelle, medium-sized antelope and hares are among the principle prey. When hunting, the cheetah targets a particular individual and then stalks as close as possible before exploding in a sudden burst of speed. Using its tail as a rudder, the cheetah quickly gains ground on its quarry which it then attempts to trip from behind. Once the victim is grounded, the spotted cat pins it down to suffocate. Only around one quarter of pursuits end successfully for the cheetah, however, and when prey is successfully captured, the hunter must feed quickly to avoid detection and possible displacement by vultures or more powerful predators. Female cheetah are solitary and raise litters of two to four cubs every second year. It is no easy task for the mother to provide for her family and there is usually a high mortality of cubs. Unlike leopards, female cheetah do not have fixed territories and wander over an extensive area, often moving to avoid contact with lion prides. Male cheetah are territorial and occupy large areas in which they have mating opportunities with a number of females. The larger the coalition of males (they are often siblings) the longer their tenure in an area of prime habitat. Cheetah are readily distinguished from similarly-sized leopards by their proportionately longer legs, single coin-like spots, and distinctive black ‘tear marks’ running from the eyes to the mouth. Cheetah cubs are covered in long greyish hair on their backs which may aid them in camouflage.