Cheetah

Cheetah living at Wingham Wildlife Park

Size
This is a slender cat which weighs from 46 lbs to 160 lbs (21 kg to 72 kg), measuring 43 to 59 inches (1.1 to 1.5 m) from its head to the base of the tail (which accounts for a further 24 to 33 inches). This species stand 26 to 37 inches (66 to 94 cm) tall at the shoulder.

Habitat and Distribution
There are thought to be 12,400 Cheetahs in the wild and they live in semi desert conditions and are perfectly adapted for large open spaces. These 12,400 cats are spread out in 25 African countries from Algeria right through to South Africa as well as a small Asian population thought to remain in Iran.

Age
While wild Cheetahs generally live for 12 years, in captivity it is not uncommon for them to reach 20 years.

Diet
This is a carnivore and has adapted its incredible speed over short distances to become a very successful lone hunter. Due to its size it tends to hunt prey weighing under 90 lb (around 40 Kg) which includes animals such as Springbok, Gazelle, Impala, Hares, Guinea Fowl and young Wildebeest and Zebra.

Threats
This species is listed as vulnerable in the wild due to a large number of factors, including predation by other carnivores such as Lions and Hyenas and as a result of poaching. However another problem which they face is low genetic diversity due to high levels of in-breeding, even in the wild, where this issue has contributed to problems including bowed limbs, low sperm count and other birth defects.

Interesting facts
At 70 to 75 mph (112 to 120 km/h) the Cheetah is the worlds fastest land animal and can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph (0 to 100 km/h) in just 3 seconds.

Groups and Breeding
Females will give birth to litters of up to 9 cubs after a gestation of around 90 days. The social structure of this species is very different to most cats. Most females will live a solitary life, although they have been known to live with related females in small groups (especially when rearing cubs). Males however will often spend their whole lives living in a small group made up of males from the same litter. If a male does not have any other male siblings he will often lead a solitary life as the females do, but may also join up with other solitary males or join a small sibling group.