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Cheetahs of the Zambezi

Cheetahs of the Zambezi

Cheetahs of the Zambezi
  • The scientific name for cheetah is Acinonyx jubatus
  • Previously thought to be genetically uniform, more recent data suggest that cheetahs exist is distinct genetic populations, with those in Southern Africa different to those in East and Northern Africa (there is still insufficient data from West Africa)
  • The cheetah is specially adapted to reach high speeds:
  • it has semi-retractable claws which provide grip on the ground when running at high speed;
  • it has a larger than normal heart to help pump blood to muscles when running;
  • it has a very flexible spine which allows it to twist and turn at high speed, coupled with a long but strong tail which acts like a rudder and prevents the cheetah from falling over when it twists and turns at high speed;
  • its small head and ears reduce resistance when running.
  • The dark tear marks help to absorb strong sunlight helping the cheetah to hunt in daylight.
  • Cheetah cubs have a very distinctive mane of light coloured hair down their back which is thought to help camouflage the cubs when they are left on their own while their mother hunts. They gradually lose this mane.
  • Cheetah females are solitary, and males can either live on their own on in coalitions.
  • Home ranges of females and young adult males are large, often close to 1000km. Territorial males have smaller home ranges that overlap with a number of female home ranges.
  • They eat predominantly middle size prey animals (10 – 35kg) but can catch quite small prey such as scrub hares, or larger animals such as kudu, the latter when they hunt as a coalition.
  • It is listed as 'vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List.
  • The three regional conservation planning exercises that have taken place since 2007 have estimated that there are fewer than 10000 cheetah left in Africa, in increasingly fragmented landscapes (insert map of range)
  • It is commonly confused with the leopard and the serval
  • It is no threat to humans – in fact you can pull a cheetah’s tail and it will simply try to run away from you
  • It will prey of livestock but generally only when there is limited wild prey available.

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The Septemeber 2012 issue of the Zambezi Traveller focused on cheetah and the amazing work done in preserving this magnificent animal in the Zambezi region.

The Cheetah: An icon of the Zambezi
Focus on the Cheetah
Cheetah of the Zambezi
Farmers the key for cheetah future
Cheetah Centre leads the way
Cheetah Ambassador in Victoria Falls
Cheetah: the final frontier?
Spot the difference...

You can download the full pdf version of this issue here.