Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)
The fastest animal on land the cheetah is built for speed, with long legs, non-retractable claws and a rudder-shaped tail for control!
Once widespread over much of Africa, Asia, India and the Middle East cheetah’s are now restricted in the wild to sub-Saharan Africa. Namibia has the largest wild cheetah population in Africa.
Single females will hold and defend their territories from other females. They mark their territories by means of scent sprayed from an anal pouch. Related males may form coalitions.
Cheetah males are not as territorial as females, but they do keep other males away from their ranges. Competition between males when a female is in oestrus is high and intense with fatalities often been recorded.
The main differences occur in the hunting and feeding behaviour across the range.
Cheetahs are found in a wide range of habitats, although they are more prevalent in the savanna and open woodlands, and deserts. They are not reliant on water.
Cheetah hunt during daylight hours, with a peak in the morning and evening. They have however, been known to hunt on moonlight nights. Although preying predominantly on antelope such as impala, gazelles and springbok cheetah prey varies from rodents to wildebeest.
Larger antelope such as Wildebeest and Tsessebe will be hunted when there is a cheetah coalition. Female cheetah will catch smaller prey and bring it back live, so that cubs may learn hunting techniques.
Competition for mating amongst males when a female is in oestrus is intense with a high fatality rate recorded in fights in areas of high density. The gestation period is around three months. Cheetah cubs look very similar to honey badgers from a distance. This is a survival technique as honey badgers are renowned to be ferocious.
Despite the teeth cheetahs are at the bottom of the predator chain.