The Cheetah has a slender, long-legged body with blunt, semi-retractable claws. Its coat is tan with about 2,000 small, round, black spots and the fur is coarse and short. It has a small head with high-set eyes with black “tear marks” which run from the corner of its eyes down the sides of the nose to its mouth. It is the fastest mammalian sprinter on earth, covering up to 9 metres in a stride at almost 4 strides per second. The cheetah can reach a top speed of 100km/h or more. The Cheetah’s social system of solitary females and social males is unique among cats.
Distribution and habitat
Now only found in various countries in Africa, with a small population left in Iran. Cheetahs can be found in open plains, woodland, savannah, highlands up to 2,000m and arid regions extending to desert fringes.
Cheetahs are diurnal (active in daytime) hunting antelope, warthogs, hares & game birds.
Life expectancy and breeding
In the wild, few survive more than 8 years though they live up to 10-12 years. In captivity they can live as long as 20 years. Females reach sexual maturity at 20-24 months and males at 2-3 years. Gestation period is 90-95 days and litters vary from 1-9 but the average is 3-5 cubs. Cub mortality is extremely high for the species in the wild.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – North African Cheetah: Critically Endangered. IUCN sub-Saharan cheetah: Vulnerable. Experts now say that the wild population could be as low as 7,100 animals.
At Billabong Zoo, Port Macquarie we have 2 cheetah brothers: Warrior (DOB 10.4.2014) and Vongani (10.4.2014) who we acquired from Cheetah Outreach in South Africa whose incredible work we support: “Promoting the survival of the free ranging, Southern African cheetah through environmental education and delivering conservation initiatives.” See their website for further details. We support their work by selling merchandise at our Zoo Shop.