Cheetah

Cheetah

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  • Information
  • Conservation
  • Lifestyle

Description

Cheetahs have a slim torso with long legs in relation to their total body size. They have a flexible spine that acts to increase their stride length, adding to their incredible speed. Their fur is a coarse, pale yellow speckled with black spots and they have a mane of longer hair at the nape of the neck. Tear marks, the black lines that run from the inner corner of the eye to the outer corner of the mouth, reduce the glare from the sun. A long, flattened tail acts as a rudder, enabling the cheetah to change direction quickly while chasing its prey. Semi-retractable claws act as cleats and add traction when running. Reduced canines allow for a larger nasal opening to increase the volume of air that the cheetah can bring in with each breath.

Classification

Class
Mammalia
Order
Carnivora
Family
Felidae
Genus
Acinonyx
Species
A. jubatus
Conservation status
Vulnerable

Key Facts

Height
2.2-3 ft (~67-94 cm)
Weight
86-140 lb (~40-63 kg)

The IUCN Red List describes Acinonyx jubatus as a Vulnerable species. In 1900, it was estimated that there were approximately 100,000 cheetahs in the wild.  Today, the population has declined to around 7,500. Genetic studies have shown that there is very little genetic variation within the species, possibly due to a severe bottleneck. Factors that threaten the cheetah’s survival include other predators, persecution by humans, and habitat loss and fragmentation. Not understanding the important role that predators play in the environment, farmers kill cheetahs in an attempt to prevent predation of their livestock.  The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) has been working with farmers to resolve cheetah-farmer conflicts. One of their most successful programs provides farmers with Anatolian Shepherds. These large dogs live with the livestock, deterring cheetahs and other predators.

Social Life

Female cheetahs are generally solitary animals except when raising their dependent young.  Males are either solitary or in coalitions of 2-3 siblings and/or unrelated males. Males may be either territorial or nomadic. Territorial males mark the area that they defend with urine and feces and mate with females that enter their territory. Non-territorial males cover ground at a fast rate and are defined as nomads, often remaining in a single area for no more than a few days.

Habitat and Range

Cheetahs are primarily terrestrial, but have been known to scramble up trees on occasion. They inhabit grasslands, dry forest, savanna woodland, semi-desert and scrub habitats mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. There are pocketed populations in southern Algeria and northern Niger, and they range from Senegal east to Somalia and south to northern South Africa. A few have been reported from Iran. Many of their strongholds are in eastern and southern African parks. Historically cheetahs had a very wide range from Africa through the Arabian Peninsula and into India.

Diet

Cheetahs are carnivores that usually prey on small animals such as small antelope, hares, birds and warthogs. Males, working together in coalitions, can take down larger prey such as wildebeest and ostrich. Female cheetahs teach their young how to hunt by capturing and releasing live young antelope. Because cheetahs receive the majority of the moisture that they need from their prey, they can go for long periods of time without drinking water.

The cheetah is the fastest land mammal, capable running 70 mph (112 kph). They are sprinters, not long distance runners and can only sprint 600-1600 ft (200-500 m) before their temperature rises too high and they must stop to prevent overheating. When these cats are able to overtake their prey, the animal is usually tripped using the cheetah’s forepaws. The majority of hunts end in failure and cheetahs in the Serengeti often lose their kills to lions and spotted hyenas.

Lifespan

A wild cheetah may live 6-8 years and in captivity they have been known to live up to 17-19 years.

Predators

Predators such as lions and hyenas will kill adult cheetahs if given the chance but most adults will run away from predators. Cheetah cub mortality is very high and lions, hyenas and leopards have been documented killing cubs.

Reproduction

Sexual maturity: Male: 15 months, Female: 13-16 months
Mating Season:   Females enter estrus at any time of year
Birth Season:      Year-round
Gestation:            90-95 days
No. of Young:      1-6 per litter

Information

Description

Cheetahs have a slim torso with long legs in relation to their total body size. They have a flexible spine that acts to increase their stride length, adding to their incredible speed. Their fur is a coarse, pale yellow speckled with black spots and they have a mane of longer hair at the nape of the neck. Tear marks, the black lines that run from the inner corner of the eye to the outer corner of the mouth, reduce the glare from the sun. A long, flattened tail acts as a rudder, enabling the cheetah to change direction quickly while chasing its prey. Semi-retractable claws act as cleats and add traction when running. Reduced canines allow for a larger nasal opening to increase the volume of air that the cheetah can bring in with each breath.

Classification

Class
Mammalia
Order
Carnivora
Family
Felidae
Genus
Acinonyx
Species
A. jubatus
Conservation status
Vulnerable

Key Facts

Height
2.2-3 ft (~67-94 cm)
Weight
86-140 lb (~40-63 kg)
Conservation

The IUCN Red List describes Acinonyx jubatus as a Vulnerable species. In 1900, it was estimated that there were approximately 100,000 cheetahs in the wild.  Today, the population has declined to around 7,500. Genetic studies have shown that there is very little genetic variation within the species, possibly due to a severe bottleneck. Factors that threaten the cheetah’s survival include other predators, persecution by humans, and habitat loss and fragmentation. Not understanding the important role that predators play in the environment, farmers kill cheetahs in an attempt to prevent predation of their livestock.  The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) has been working with farmers to resolve cheetah-farmer conflicts. One of their most successful programs provides farmers with Anatolian Shepherds. These large dogs live with the livestock, deterring cheetahs and other predators.

Lifestyle

Social Life

Female cheetahs are generally solitary animals except when raising their dependent young.  Males are either solitary or in coalitions of 2-3 siblings and/or unrelated males. Males may be either territorial or nomadic. Territorial males mark the area that they defend with urine and feces and mate with females that enter their territory. Non-territorial males cover ground at a fast rate and are defined as nomads, often remaining in a single area for no more than a few days.

Habitat and Range

Cheetahs are primarily terrestrial, but have been known to scramble up trees on occasion. They inhabit grasslands, dry forest, savanna woodland, semi-desert and scrub habitats mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. There are pocketed populations in southern Algeria and northern Niger, and they range from Senegal east to Somalia and south to northern South Africa. A few have been reported from Iran. Many of their strongholds are in eastern and southern African parks. Historically cheetahs had a very wide range from Africa through the Arabian Peninsula and into India.

Diet

Cheetahs are carnivores that usually prey on small animals such as small antelope, hares, birds and warthogs. Males, working together in coalitions, can take down larger prey such as wildebeest and ostrich. Female cheetahs teach their young how to hunt by capturing and releasing live young antelope. Because cheetahs receive the majority of the moisture that they need from their prey, they can go for long periods of time without drinking water.

The cheetah is the fastest land mammal, capable running 70 mph (112 kph). They are sprinters, not long distance runners and can only sprint 600-1600 ft (200-500 m) before their temperature rises too high and they must stop to prevent overheating. When these cats are able to overtake their prey, the animal is usually tripped using the cheetah’s forepaws. The majority of hunts end in failure and cheetahs in the Serengeti often lose their kills to lions and spotted hyenas.

Lifespan

A wild cheetah may live 6-8 years and in captivity they have been known to live up to 17-19 years.

Predators

Predators such as lions and hyenas will kill adult cheetahs if given the chance but most adults will run away from predators. Cheetah cub mortality is very high and lions, hyenas and leopards have been documented killing cubs.

Reproduction

Sexual maturity: Male: 15 months, Female: 13-16 months
Mating Season:   Females enter estrus at any time of year
Birth Season:      Year-round
Gestation:            90-95 days
No. of Young:      1-6 per litter

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Cheetah