Masai Mara, Kenya
IUCN status : Vulnerable
Cheetah is the fastest land mammal on earth and can reach from 0 to 97 Kmph in 3 seconds. It can attain a maximum speed of 121 Kmph. They are also gifted with brilliant Eye Sight and can see clearly up to 5 Km. This helps them in tracking, planning, chasing and hunting down their prey. Cheetahs’ long muscular tails have a flat shape that is used for balance and steering. The tail essentially acts like a rudder on a boat. Their superbly flexible spinal cord and streamlined body aids in running faster. However running at such high speed requires lot of energy and Cheetahs cannot continue to do that for longer period of time. Hence their hunting attempts are restricted to short sprints. Black tear-shaped streaks on the face help to reflect back sunrays when hunting. These fierce felines hunt during the day to avoid competition from other powerful predators such as lions, hyenas and leopards. Cheetahs have evolved to live in an environment where water is scarce, and can survive on one drink every three to four days.
Female cheetahs tend to be solitary, while males typically live in groups made up of other male siblings called coalitions. Females socialize with males only when mating but then raise their offspring on their own. The gestation period of female cheetahs is around 3 months and litter sizes are typically between three to five cubs. Cubs weigh between 150 to 300 grams when born, not much larger than a newborn housecat. Cubs are born with all their spots and long manes called mantles on their neck and shoulders, which disappear as they get older.
When the cubs reach about 6 months of age, the mother starts teaching them to hunt and avoid predators, such as lions and hyenas. The mother keeps her cubs on the move as they try to avoid predators. Mothers live with their cubs for about 18 months. Even under the mother’s watchful eye, about 70 percent of cubs are killed by predators that include lions and hyenas.
Cheetahs bear approximately 2000-3000 spots on their body. They live for 7-10 years in the wild. Female cheetahs are solitary, living alone or with their young. Males however, live in small family groups of 2–3 brothers, known as coalitions. Cheetahs are Africa’s most endangered big cat with 9000-12000 left in the wild.