AZ 02 Cheetah
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Cheetah are not classed as 'big cats'. Big cats have the ability to roar - cheetahs have instead retained the ability to purr, just like your domestic cat at home.
The cheetah has a slender, elongated body supported on tall, thin legs with blunt semi-retractable claws and a flattened rudder-like tail that measures half of the cheetah's head and body length. Black "tear marks" run down the face from the corner of the eyes down to the mouth. It is believed that the "tear marks" aid in hunting by helping to keep the sun out of the eyes. The coat colour is tan with evenly spaced black spots. The coat is coarse and short. Adult body length 112-135cm; tail length 66-84cm; shoulder height 73-90cm; weight 34-65kg.
Cheetahs prefer vast areas of open country, such as grassy plains or savannahs, although they can survive in a variety of different habitats including open woodlands, semi-desert, sandy plains, dense vegetation, and mountainous terrain.
Cheetahs are diurnal meaning they are active during the day. Cheetahs usually hunt in the late morning and early evening. They capture their prey by stalking until the prey is within 10-30 metres before initiating the chase. Because cheetahs store heat internally they will only chase over very short distances before they must stop and cool down. Chases usually last around 20 seconds and no longer than 1 minute. About half of all chases are successful. Cheetahs use a bite to the throat in order to suffocate their prey. Their diet consists of Thomson's and Grant's gazelles, springbok, reedbuck, waterbuck, kudu, steenbok, duiker, warthog, hare, game birds, and wildebeest. Because of their relatively small size in comparison to other large predators in Africa, cheetahs commonly lose 10-50% of their kills to lions, hyaenas and leopards. Cheetahs are well adapted to living in arid environments and are not obligate drinkers. They appear to be able to satisfy their moisture requirements from their prey's blood and urine or by eating tsama melons.
Cheetah breed once a year. The female raises the cubs ranging from 2-8 (but usually 3 or 4) herself. They will stay with her for up to two years.
The primary threat to the cheetah is loss of habitat due to human settlement and agriculture. Decline in prey, poaching, and indiscriminate trapping and shooting as a livestock predator also threaten the survival of the cheetah throughout its range. As a protected species in Namibia, people are allowed to remove cheetahs only if they pose a threat to livestock or human life. Unfortunately, some farmers will capture cheetahs indiscriminantly, often removing or killing those that have not taken any livestock. In North Africa and Iran, severe depletion of the prey base has brought cheetahs to near extinction.
Once widely distributed throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, the cheetah can now only be found scattered in various countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and a small population in Iran. The major strongholds of the cheetah are in eastern and southern Africa, primarily Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia.
Only 10,000 cheetahs remain in 25 African countries and a further 100 cheetahs survive in Iran. The largest population of cheetahs occurs in Namibia where 95 percent of wild cheetahs live on commercial farms.