The cheetah has a slender, long-legged body with blunt semi-retractable claws. Its coat is tan with small, round, black spots, and the fur is coarse and short. The cheetah has a small head with high-set eyes. Black "tear marks," which run from the corner of its eyes down the sides of the nose to its mouth, keep the sun out of its eyes and aid in hunting. Adult body length 112-135 cm; tail length 66-84 cm; shoulder height 73+ cm; weight 34-54 kg. The male is slightly larger then the female.
Cheetahs thrive in areas with vast expanses of land where prey is abundant. Cheetahs have been found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, savannahs, dense vegetation, and mountainous terrain. In Namibia 95 percent of cheetahs live on commercial farms. A cheetah's diet consists of small antelope, young of large antelope, warthog, hare, and game birds.
Reproduction / Social System
Sexual maturity occurs at 20-23 months. The gestation period is about 95 days, and the average litter size is 4-5 cubs. Cubs are smoky-grey in colour with long hair, called a mantle, running along their backs; they are up to 30 cm long and weigh 250-300 grams at birth. The mantle has several purposes: it is thought to camouflage the cub in dead grass, hiding it from predators, and to work as a mimicry defence, causing the cub to resemble a honey badger.
Range & Population
Once found throughout Asia and Africa, the species is now only scattered in Iran and various countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Home ranges in Namibia for males can be up to 1500 square km and for females, 1200-1500 square km. Only 12,500 cheetahs remain in 25 African countries, and 200 cats survive in Iran. Namibia has the world's largest number of cheetahs, yet over + 3,000 remain the wild.
Protected species in Namibia. Endangered under the United States Endangered Species Act. Listed on CITES Appendix I. (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.)
Cheetahs are wild animals. Capture of wild cheetahs threaten the survival of the species in two ways. First, the removal of individuals reduces the species' genetic diversity in the wild. And secondly, cheetahs do not breed well in captivity. The Asian cheetah is nearly extinct because of its capture for private use. Special dietary requirements, special needs, and unpredictable behaviour make this a poor pet. Wild instincts remain intact even with tamed and captive raised animals.