Fast Facts about Cheetahs

By May 26, 2019 August 16th, 2019 News, Wildlife

One of our very favourite animals that can be seen at The Hide is the cheetah. Famous for being the fastest land mammal on earth, the cheetah with its elegant spotty coat, are even more beautiful in real life than in photographs. What makes seeing a cheetah even more special is that the species is under threat, due to a loss of habitat and prey. They are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red list, and, today, an estimated 9,000-12,000 remain in Africa.

Cheetahs - Photo Credit - Pam

Photo Credit – Pam

Cheetah - Photo Credit Cian DH

Photo Credit – Cian DH

Cheetah by Neil Fairlie

Photo Credit – Neil Fairlie

Cheetah Hwange National Park - Cian DH

Photo Credit – Cian DH

The cheetah

Size: 1.1m and 1.4m metres long, plus a tail measuring 65cm to 80cm. Their weight ranges from 34kg to 54kg, males being slightly heavier.

Features: The coats of a cheetah are pale yellow with black dots, and a white underbelly. Each cheetah has a unique coat – take a look at this link to learn how to identify the different patterns, and meet some of the cheetahs of Zimbabwe. Their most distinguishable feature are their “tear marks” – the black lines that run from the corner of their eye to the mouth.

Speed: The cheetah is a true speed machine – with long legs, elongated spine and a long tail for balance. Amazingly, it can reach up to 112km/hour.

Breeding: Females have between two to eight cubs per litter. A mother cheetah will look after her cubs until they are about 18months to 2 years old, where they can look after themselves. As you can see by these photos, cubs are fluffy!

Groups: Cheetahs are usually solitary, but may also be found in small groups that are called “coalitions”. These either consist of either a mother and her cubs, a group of males or a group of siblings before they split up to mate. Adult males and females do not stay together in groups – they only meet up to mate.

Cheetah & giraffe by Neil Fairlie

Photo Credit – Neil Fairlie

Cheetahs - Photo Credit - Pam

Photo Credit – Pam

Cheetahs - Photo Credit - Pam

Photo Credit – Pam

Cheetah Hwange National Park - Cian DH

Photo Credit – Cian DH

Cheetahs - Photo Credit - Pam

Photo Credit – Pam

Cheetah Hwange National Park - Cian DH

Photo Credit – Cian DH

Where do cheetahs live?

The majority of the world’s cheetahs live in sub-saharan Africa, although there is a very small population that live in north-east Iran. Cheetahs need open, grassy plains as this sort of terrain allows them to pick up speed to catch their prey. In Zimbabwe, there was a project between 2012 and 2015 to collect of data on the cheetah population by the Cheetah Conservation Project Zimbabwe, headed up by Dr. Esther van der Meer. They estimated less than 200 cheetahs in Zimbabwe. This is due considerable changes in land use in the last 20 years, and a cheetahs have lost 61% of their historic range. The largest free roaming cheetah populations in Zimbabwe can be found in Hwange, Mana Pools and Gonarezhou National Park and surroundings

Cheetahs - Photo Credit - Pam

Photo Credit – Pam

Cheetah and Giraffes - Photo Credit Cian DH

Photo Credit – Cian DH

Cheetah, zebra & giraffe by Neil Fairlie

Photo Credit – Neil Fairlie

Cheetah Hwange National Park - Cian DH

Photo Credit – Cian DH

How do cheetahs hunt?

Cheetahs are carnivores. In Hwange National Park, their favourite prey is impala but they also catch warthogs, birds, duiker and smaller antelope. They are diurnal, meaning they hunt during the day – which means you have a good chance of seeing them in action when you go on a game walk or drive! They have excellent eyesight so can spot even the most camouflaged of prey. They then give chase at high speed for 200m-300m, knock the prey over with their legs and kill swiftly with a bite to the throat. A cheetah chase is over quickly – usually less than a minute.

Cheetahs - Photo Credit - Pam

Photo Credit – Pam

Cheetah Hwange National Park - Cian DH

Photo Credit – Cian DH

Cheetah by Neil Fairlie

Photo Credit – Neil Fairlie