Imagine a world without the swift, graceful cheetah…while most of us assume that they are a thriving species, their ecological status is vulnerable, so it pays to be as educated as possible about them.
Recognised as the Fast and Furious of the Animal world, here are 10 cool facts about the cheetah that you may not have known before.
1. Mouthful. Rather a mouthful, their scientific name is Acinonyxjubatus.
2. Found in…Africa and a small part of the Middle East.
3. House and Home? Open plains and partially open savannah where he is camouflaged in the long grass. Cheetahs’ golden coats are embellished with many small black spots, which helps them blend in with their grassy habitat.
4. Eat right. Cheetahs eat warthogs, gazelles, antelopes, rabbits, porcupines and even ostriches, and they catch their prey by chasing it down. These chases cost the cheetah an enormous amount of energy, and they’re usually all over in less than a minute.
5. Body beautiful. Their deep chests and enlarged hearts, lungs and nostrils help cheetahs take in more oxygen during intense chases. Their high-set eyes have a 210-degree field of view. Non-retractable claws help them gain traction when running on soft ground, and their tails help them balance as they make sharp, high-speed turns while chasing their prey. Full-grown cheetahs are about 1.2 m long, not including a 76-centimetre tail. They weigh about 30 to 63 kilograms and are 0.6 to 0.9 m tall at the shoulder. They live for 10 to 12 years.
6. A-hunting we will go. Cheetah like to hunt late morning or early evening. Their keen eyesight lets them get as close as possible before picking up speed and making the kill. Lions and leopards can attack a cheetah and steal its kill, so cheetahs may try to avoid them by hunting in the middle of the day. Cheetahs usually eat their prey right away since they’re not strong enough to hide it or fend off other predators.
7. Fast and Furious. The cheetah is the fastest land mammal reaching speeds of up to 97 to 120km/h over short distances. They can accelerate from 0 to 97kph in 3 seconds! That is faster than most cars. A single bound can cover 7 metres, thanks to a flexible spine that lets their front legs extend really far.
8. Lifestyle. Cheetah are active during the day. Females live alone or in a small family group with their dependant cubs. They are very territorial and actively patrol their home range.
9. Not just in politics. The males are solitary or found in small groups called coalitions.
10. Family Affair. Cheetah do not have a specific mating season, but cubs are generally born in the wet season. The cubs are born 3 months after mating. They remain hidden in the den for the first 6 weeks of their lives. They sport a beautiful woolly, light coloured mantle that runs down the length of their backs. This helps to camouflage them in the grass. As they get older, they will leave the den and follow mom, especially when she makes a kill.