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The Cheetah: An icon of the Zambezi

The Cheetah: An icon of the Zambezi

The Cheetah: An icon of the Zambezi

Shy, elusive, beautiful, with tawny eyes that appear to hold all the sadness of the world, set off by the distinctive black ‘tear lines’ running down its face. And yet in reality the cheetah is a formidable hunter, belying its image of fragility.

It is the fastest animal on land, a successful hunter and an animal many people on safari in Africa would love to see. Cheetahs are unique – a unique species belonging to a unique genus; there is no other animal like it. From the tip of its semi-retractable claws to its small head and ears, the cheetah is made for speed and agility. Long legs, a lithe body, an incredibly flexible spine and a strong tail that acts to stabilise at high speed, the cheetah can run and twist after its equally agile prey, bringing down its target 70-80% of the time.

A larger-than-normal heart pumps blood to its strong muscles, allowing it to reach speeds of up to 100 kms/hour in a very short space of time. Top Gear would love this animal if it was a car! But although the description evokes an animal only able to hunt successfully in grassland or open ecosystems, the cheetah is adaptable and able to survive in many different habitats, from the arid lands of Namibia to thick mopane and wet grassland floodplains. Even a small clearing in dense woodland is all a cheetah needs to sprint and kill its prey – in fact it can only run for short periods of time, as the increase in heat from muscle activity rapidly becomes dangerous.

For now, the Zambezi catchment area is home to a large percentage of the remaining population of cheetahs in Africa (less than 10 000). The network of protected areas, community wildlife areas and land where human populations are still low (and wild prey populations high) all make for a good home for this amazing animal. How long this will be the case remains to be seen, but the prognosis is good at the moment.

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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.