THE FASTEST MAMMAL ON LAND
The cheetah is built for speed and is smaller and leaner than other big cats with a flexible spine, semi retractable claws and unique muscles that enable extra acceleration by allowing the limbs to swing freely. They are exceptionally agile and able to make sharp turns even at very high speeds. They can attain speeds of 100kph/60mph in just 3 seconds and have a 7m/23ft long stride enabling it to take down its prey in less than a minute on average. Cheetah are timid creatures and will move into a protected spot to devour their prey as quickly as possible whilst keeping a lookout for lion and hyena that might attempt to steal it. Cheetah only need to drink every three to four days.
Cheetah are solitary animals and their spotted coats provide camouflage in the long grasses in which they hunt, mainly during the day. The cheetah has excellent eyesight and the distinctive tear marks on the cheeks are thought to act like the scope on a rifle, assisting them in accurately taking down their prey at high speeds. Until about three months of age cheetah cubs have a thick silvery-grey mantle down their back, mimicking the particularly aggressive honey badger and deterring predators from attempting to attack them. Cubs are usually born in litters of three and they remain with their mother for one and a half to two years learning to hunt through playful games.
Challenges & Solutions
Cheetahs’ habitat has shrunk by 75% and the population of cheetah in the wild has declined by 30% in the last two decades. It is estimated that only 7,000 to 10,000 of these big cats remain, and as the wide-open grasslands they inhabit are being destroyed as villages expand, so their survival becomes more uncertain. Human-cheetah conflict is a concern as cheetah prey on livestock as a result of the loss of their natural prey and are then killed in retaliation by farmers who view them as pests.
Educating local people about the economic value of wildlife and ways to deter livestock predation by cheetah and other big cats will assist in conservation efforts and allow for human and animal populations to live in harmony. Building bomas to protect livestock and providing consolation funding to farmers who have lost animals have both proven to be successful strategies.