World Cheetah Day

World Wildlife Day 2017

The cheetah as a member of the cat family is in a class of its own. It is the fastest of the big cats and unlike its cousins, it never roars. The cheetah lives mainly in East and Southern Africa although there are still a few dozen still to be found in Iran and there are still occasional sightings of cheetahs reported from Pakistan. Cheetahs used to be found in other parts of the Middle East and India but hunting and entrapment for the wealthy to show off as part of their extravagant households has led to their extinction in these parts. Cheetahs can be tamed for they are less aggressive than lions or leopards and have more ‘dog like’ qualities responding positively to the company of humans. As the picture below shows the cheetah is the most endangered of our cats. Not only is man the main cause of the cheetah’s demise but cheetah cubs are often killed by other predators before they reach maturity.

The cheetah’s name comes from the Hindi and Sanskrit languages and refers to its pelt for the name is translated as ‘variegated’. This cat can reach speeds of 110 – 120 km hour in about 3 seconds. Chases rarely last more than a minute with prey usually tripped and suffocated within 200-300 meters. In order to power such explosive bursts of speed the cheetah has a highly developed respiratory system. Its claws do not retract and this adaptation allows the cat more purchase on the ground as it powers across the plains. Keen eyesight allows this predator to spot its prey up to 5 km away and its camouflage allows it to stalk its intended victim until very close indeed. This being said the cheetah is surprisingly unsuccessful when hunting and studies show that 50% of prey will escape.

Ever wary of lions, leopards and hyenas, cheetahs hunt during the day when such competition is resting from the hot sun in the shade of acacias and the rocky outcrops that are part of the vast savanna lands that form their favourite habitat. Thus Cheetahs have adapted to higher body temperatures than the other cats and can also go for 2 to 3 days without drinking water.

A vulnerable and outstandingly beautiful and sensitive member of the feline family, cheetahs need our protection. As with all the animal kingdom they themselves need to be protected and their habitat needs to be safeguarded to ensure they remain part of our future.

 

Deborah Boyd-Moss

IDEAS & THOUGHTS

On behalf of

PLANET EARTH

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