The Cheetah is a land animal that is native to Africa. It is an extremely swift and agile creature with the ability to run at speeds of 50-80 miles per hour (about 80-130 kilometers per hour). They’re also extremely good at accelerating. To put it into perspective, think of it this way: You know the experience of driving on the highway? The speed and velocity of cruising on the interstate? Well, a Cheetah can match and exceed that in just about 3 seconds. Like I said, they are extremely swift creatures. When a Cheetah is at full thrust, their strides can measure between 15 to 25 feet (or 4 to 7 meters). That is about the length of a pickup truck plus some.
They aren’t very aggressive toward humans, despite being carnivores. In fact, there are accounts of them being tamed numerous times over the past few millennia, commonly seen in Egyptian scrolls and artwork. The reason behind this is thought to be because of their picky eating habits and their stature. They typically only eat smaller animals that can be chased and tripped. They are much leaner than animals of their type, so they lack the brawn to take down larger animals.
The Cheetah is listed as being vulnerable by the IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature), while the Endangered Species Act argues that it is an endangered species. With a global population estimated at 7,100, this is understandable. Some of the major factors in their low population stem from their picky living habits. They occupy large habitats, often ranging over 20 square miles (about 32 square kilometers), and they can be very territorial.
The first Cheetah to be held in captivity was brought to the Zoological Society of London in 1829, just 3 years after the society was founded. Interestingly enough, Cheetahs didn’t fare well in captivity at first. They had high mortality rates, averaging within just 3 to 4 years of age because of the level of stress while in captivity, among other things. Today, they can be expected to live to around 20 years of age while held in captivity due to much better standards of care. An estimated 25% of the global Cheetah population is being raised in captivity.
The largest threat to the species is believed to be habitat degradation. Because of their extremely vast habitats, this is a difficult problem to solve. Their habitats aren’t only encroached by humans and other animals, but also nature itself. Bush encroachment is one such thing that negatively impacts their habitats by choking out grasses and causing other animals’ habitats to be uprooted. It also causes groundwater to build up slower and slower as more large plant life invades the territory.
At this point in time, Cheetahs are primarily found in eastern and southern parts of Africa, as well as some of the deserts in Iran. Most Cheetah populations vary around 100 individuals, but there are several that range from 1000 to 4000 individuals.
Cheetahs have a wide range of vocal sounds. They have a chirp which is mainly used to indicate excitement and can be heard as far away as 1.2 miles (2 kilometers). They also use it to call for lost cubs, or if they themselves have gotten lost. They have a churr which is also used to indicate excitement. It sounds shockingly similar to the call of the typical monkey. Lastly, they also make the general cat sounds, such as growls, hisses, and bleating.
The Cheetah has an interesting social structure. They are generally independent, each claiming their own territory at an early age, with exceptions to females who often stay with their mother. Some males form groups called coalitions. These individuals band together to defend their collective territory and share access to any caught prey or females who entered their territory in heat.
The Cheetah has many ways of avoiding larger predators, but one of them is their diurnal activity. While most similar carnivores are active at night, they are active during the day. However, they tend to hunt more after dusk when they are the king predator in their area, on moonlit nights, or when daytime temperatures are too high to hunt, such as in deserts. When Cheetah coalitions go to rest, they take turns surveying the nearby landscape for prey and predators.
Cheetahs hunt by sight. When they’ve found their prey, they sneak up to it as close as possible. They then give chase and try to trip their prey by punching the rump of the animal, sometimes bringing it down so strongly that it breaks the prey’s limbs. The point at which they give chase depends on their landscape. If it is a dense area, they often get as close as 200 feet (60 meters). Otherwise, they can end up beginning the chase from as far away as two football fields (or 200 meters for the rest of the world).
Hopefully we will make bounds and leaps to help these wonderful creatures thrive in the future.