Africa, southern Asia, Mid-East
Most habitats in Africa, except rainforests
The coat of the cheetah is tawny with small round black spots. The face is marked by a conspicuous ‘tear stripe’ running from the corner of the eyes down the side of the nose. These tear lines probably serve the same purpose as a football player's black face grease – to help reduce the sun's glare. Although not as powerful as other large cats, their long graceful bodies give them a regal, aristocratic look. Their paws are dog-like and narrow, and their claws are blunt and only partially retractable for better traction. The cheetah has a loose and rangy build with a small head, high-set eyes, and small rather flattened ears.
Adult females are solitary except when raising cubs. They rarely associate with other adults, and when they do, it is only for a few hours following a chance encounter with a sister or territorial male. Males are more gregarious often living in permanent groups, which are sometimes composed of littermates. The cheetah is the fastest land animal and can sprint (for short bursts) at speeds of up to 70 mph. It hunts by stalking the prey, from a few seconds up to several hours, and then chasing. Chases are successful 50% of the time and rarely exceed one minute in length.
There is no regular breeding season and cubs are born in all months of the year. Litter size is 1-8, but the average is 3 cubs. The mother carries the cubs to a new hiding place everyday. When the cubs are 5-6 weeks old, they are able to follow their mother and eat from prey she catches. Sexual maturity occurs at about 2 years old. Usually only the dominant male of an area mates with receptive females.
Roughly ten thousand years ago a genetic bottle-neck occurred when most of the cheetahs were wiped out by dramatic climate changes. Today any two cheetahs are as closely related as identical twins. All cheetahs share 99% of the same genes and are thus extremely susceptible to disease and genetic defects.
|Length:||Head to tail: 112-219 cm (males usually slightly larger than females)|
|Average Lifespan:||8-15 years|
|Wild Diet:||Gazelles, impala, wildebeest calves and other hooved mammals. Also sometimes hares.|
|Predators:||Other large carnivores and man.|
|This is an SSP animal|
|CITES Status:||Appendix II|
|Where at the Zoo?||West end of the Zoo|