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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for Cheetah

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), as many of you know, is the fastest land mammal in the world.  They use their quick bursts of speed during hunting.  Cheetahs hunt mostly during the day in order to avoid other large predators such as lions and hyenas that mainly hunt at night.  When the prey is captured the cheetah goes straight for the throat to ensure a quick death.  The cheetah then gorges itself as quickly as possible before it is displaced by larger predators.


The cheetah is second only to the lion in terms of sociability.  Siblings stay together for around 6 months after leaving the mom and brothers may stay together for their entire lives.  Males likely do this in order to maintain larger territories of land which then gives them greater access to females.

Females can reproduce at any time of the year and have litters averaging around three or four cubs, the greatest of any big cat.  Litters have even been recorded of up to 8 cubs!  Sadly the death of these young cubs is high for many reasons.  While mum is out hunting the cubs are left alone.  This allows predators to come in and take advantage.


Cheetahs are at vulnerable status according to the IUCN Red List.  Cheetahs have long had very low genetic diversity, both in the wild and in captivity.  This essentially means that sudden environmental changes or diseases can quickly affect entire populations.  Luckily, wild cheetahs show good reproductive success and this is not likely happen.  Cheetahs face danger from loss of habitat and food source, competition, diseases, persecution by farmers and even human tourism.


Cheetahs will easily hunt livestock when it is available.  This then puts them into the realm of pest animals for the farmers, who will often kill them on sight.  There are new programs, however, which are helping farmers procure guard animals to help guard their flocks.  This helps save the livestock while also helping to save the cheetahs.  The Cheetah Conservation fund runs one of these programs.  The program uses "selective breeding of dogs, careful selection of recipient farmers, training for the new owner to train his/her dog for a successful guarding career, as well as follow-up to make sure the dog is doing well."  The dogs are not trained to attack predators unless under the most dire of circumstances.  They are, instead, trained to raise one helluva racket and drive the animals off.  This method of livestock guarding has greatly reduced the number of cheetahs killed each year.

To end on a happy note, here is a video that I simply can't get enough of.  If you love as much as I do, it's worth checking out the rest of them.