Ink sketch with Parker Fountain pen, medium nib, Black Parker Quink ink and Pilot Fineliner in black. A bit of pencil used for shading. Done from a friend’s photograph on Visual 200gsm watercolour paper 12″ × 8″
Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) with its prey.
From a distance there is a tear,
Receiving one, but stalking all.
The dark eye watches you from
Within the tall grasses.
The muscles become tense,
Suddenly there is a dust of speed.
A strong body curved with strength
Gets his one
As he lies with pride,
You will notice
The tear is a cry
- Cindy du Toit, Grade 9
From The Orphan Calf and the Magical Cheetah: Cheetah poems, essays and illustrations by children of Namibia: published by the Cheetah Conservation Fund (1995); (presently out of print)
Not so long ago, cheetahs inhabited an area from North Africa to India, but they are now commonly found only in sub-Saharan Africa (south of the Sahara Desert). Their range includes sparse sub-desert, steppe (a treeless plain), medium and long-grass plains. They need an environment with bushes, tall grass and other large plants in order to hide from predators.
Unlike other animals which have gender specific names – ‘bull’ and ‘cow’ for elephants; ‘rooster’ and ‘hen’ for chickens – humans apply the name ‘cheetah’ to both sexes.
Throughout recorded history, a cheetah pelt was a badge of wealth for its human owner. The animal was killed for its skin by some and captured for its hunting skills by others. But most recently, human excess is probably the major factor dramatically pushing the cheetah toward extinction. As human populations increase other species are “squeezed out” – their living space becomes more limited as does their food supply. Many animals feel the pinch and are at great risk of disappearing forever. In 1900 there were only about 100,000 cheetah worldwide – present estimates place their number at 10 to 15 thousand with about 1/10 of those living in captivity. Namibia has the largest population of wild cheetah – about 2500. Smaller populations exist in Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania while 19 other countries have even fewer.
The cheetah achieves by far the fastest land speed of any living animal — between 112 and 120 km/h (70 and 75 mph) in short bursts covering distances up to 500 m (1,600 ft), and has the ability to accelerate from 0 to over 100 km/h (62 mph) in three seconds.
The Cheetah’s conservations status is “Threatened – VU (vulnerable)”.