Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

Conservation Status

Vulnerable (VU)

Physical Description

Cheetahs have long, slim, muscular legs; a small, rounded head set on a long neck; a flexible spine; a deep chest; special pads on its feet for traction; and a long tail for balance. It is also the only cat that cannot retract its claws, an adaptation to help maintain traction like a soccer player’s cleats. It also bears distinctive black “tear tracks” running from the inside corner of each eye to the mouth, which may serve as an anti-glare mechanism for daytime hunting.
Weight 21 to 72 kg
Size 112 to 150 cm
Lifespan (wild) 8 years
Lifespan (captivity) 20 years

Behaviors

Territorial (resident) males mark the area that they defend with urine. In addition, males will also mark territory by raking the ground with their hind paws, claw at trees, flatten grass by rolling, or deposit feces on prominent land features.

Social and Reproduction

Territorial (resident) males mark the area that they defend with urine. In addition, males will also mark territory by raking the ground with their hind paws, claw at trees, flatten grass by rolling, or deposit feces on prominent land features.

Male coalitions commonly defend their territory from other males to facilitate access to females and prey, and often persist throughout the lifetime of the individuals in the coalition.

Nonterritorial 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. Floater males urinate and defecate far less frequently than territorial males. These nonresident males typically consist of adolescents, single adult males that do not belong to a coalition, and old males.

Cheetahs are promiscuous in nature, with the limiting factor for males being accessibility to females. The factor limiting reproductive success for females is access to resources. Males associate with females only at mating, provide no parental care, and will mate with as many females as possible. Females are essentially solitary and will breed throughout the year.

Mating System Promiscuity
Breeding interval Unknown
Breeding season Anytime
Gestation 90 - 95 days
Number of offspring 3

Habitat and Food

Habitat

Grasslands and deserts. They mostly stay on the ground but do climb trees.

Food

Cheetahs have a carnivorous diet, of which a large portion includes gazelle and impala. If food is sparse they will eat hares and birds.

They overtake their prey and trip them with a paw and then grab the prey by its throat.

Predators

Humans, spotted hyenas, lions, leopards

Conservation Challenges

Human-wildlife conflict threatens cheetah survival

Cheetahs tend to encounter conflict with farmers when loss of their natural prey leads them to attack livestock, and farmers kill them, as pests, in retaliation.

Habitat loss also presents a major threat to cheetahs

As human populations grow and expand, agriculture, roads, and settlements destroy the open grasslands that cheetahs favour.

Naankuse Solutions

Research programme to collar, track and educate

Through our human-carnivore conflict research project and rapid response unit we mitigate conflict by working with farmers to implement effective livestock protection strategies and where necessary, fit GPS collars to assess whether the cheetah is a true problem animal.

Animal rescue and humane looking after

Our wildlife sanctuary provides a temporary or permanent home to injured, orphaned or conflict cheetahs that cannot be returned to the wild.

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Cheetah at Naankuse sites