CAPTURED LOCATION: THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, South Africa.
THE “CHEETAH” – Acinonyx jabatus
The streamlined and elegant cheetah, although purported to attain speeds of over 100km per hour, can probably not exceed of 75km per hour for short stretches, but is, nevertheless the fleetest animal on earth.
Their claws, unlike the other cats of the region, are not able to retracted.
They are terrestrial animals, utilizing stout sloping tree trunks to rest on and use as observation posts.
Predominantly diurnal they are most active in early morning and late afternoon. In hot weather they rest in the heat of the day, preferring an elevated position from where they can keep an eye out for danger. They are more solitary than social animals. Males form strongly cohesive bachelor groups. The females are not joined by the males except during oestrus.
Vocalisation is a curious chirruping, rather like a birdcall. This may be accompanied by a ‘chirr’ sound. When content they purr loudly and growl, cough, hiss or snarl. They raise the hair on their back when they threaten.
Cheetahs are not aggressive towards each other except where males battle over a female in oestrus. These can be serious skirmishes which may leave one of the contestants dead. Their bad record of difficult breeding has been ascribed variously to an inbred genetic difficulty and, by some zoologists, to the possible occurrence of a serious plague in times past which wiped out most of the cheetah leaving very few survivors and insufficient unrelated individuals to perpetuate a very viable gene pool. This would have inhibited successful ongoing breeding. They also have a complicated courtship process, which further increases the breeding problem.
The beautiful king cheetah is a genetically abberant animal which occasionally manifests in populations of cheetah in central and southern Zimbabwe, eastern Botswana, north eastern, northern and western Transvaal.
Lion and leopard are predators of the cheetah and lion and hyaenas chase the cheetah from its prey. A litter of one to six, usually two to four, altricial cubs are born in a rocky crevice. They are carefully hidden by the mother while she hunts. Despite this they often fall prey to predators.
FOOD: The principal food is made up by medium to small antelope or the young of the larger antelope. Cheetahs also prey on terrestrial birds up to the size of the ostrich. Hares, springhaas, young warthogs and porcupines are also taken. When hunting is done in a pack they will sometimes separate giraffe calf and pull it down. They are frequently injured when they tackle large prey such as buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest or zebra. They will avoid confrontation with large herd or any animal, preferring to hunt the fringes, tackling stragglers and young.
Before the hunt they survey the veld from a vantage point. After selection the prey is stalked up to 70 meters. They then dash after the prey, relying upon their superior speed. If this dash is unsuccessful they abandon that particular animal and start again.