Facts about cheetahs :
- The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world. They can reach a top speed of around 113 km per hour. A cheetah can accelerate from 0 to 113 km in just a few seconds.
- Cheetahs are smaller than other members of the big cat family, weighing only 45 – 60 kilograms.
- One way to always recognise a cheetah is by the long, black lines which run from the inside of each eye to the mouth. These are usually called “tear lines” and scientists believe they help protect the cheetah’s eyes from the harsh sun and help them to see long distances.
- Cheetahs are the only big cat that cannot roar. They can purr though and usually purr most loudly when they are grooming or sitting near other cheetahs.
- While lions and leopards usually do their hunting at night, cheetahs hunt for food during the day. A cheetah has amazing eyesight during the day and can spot prey from 5 km away. Cheetahs cannot climb trees and have poor night vision.
- With their light body weight and blunt claws, cheetahs are not well designed to protect themselves or their prey. When a larger or more aggressive animal approaches a cheetah in the wild, it will give up its catch to avoid a fight.
- Cheetahs only need to drink once every three to four days.
- Social animals, cheetahs are usually found in groups, consisting of either a mother and her young, siblings (who stay together for around six months after leaving the mother) or a coalition of males who live and hunt together. Adult females, however, tend to be solitary and only meet with males to mate.
About cheetah populations and conservation in Kenya :
The global cheetah population has plummeted over the last 100 years. In the early 1900s an estimated 100 000 roamed the earth. Now there are only 7,500, a decline of more than 90%. They are extinct in 20 countries and occupy only 17% of their historic range. This decline has been caused by the loss and fragmentation of their natural habitats, a decline in their prey base, the illegal trade in wildlife and conflict with humans for space.
According to Mary Wykstra, founder of Action for Cheetah in Kenya (ACK), Kenya is the stronghold for the East Africa cheetah population. “We estimate between 800 and 1,200 adult cheetahs remain in about 75 per cent of their natural range in Kenya.
The human population of Kenya has tripled over the last 45 years to over 42 million, increasing the need for land and space. This has posed the biggest threat to cheetahs. They have large home-ranges. Females can cover an area of over 1500 km2, leading to a conflict over land. Cheetah populations are severely affected by habitat loss and fragmentation. With an increasing human-wildlife interface there is also an increased risk of disease transmission from domestic animals to wildlife. In the Maasai Mara National Reserve 12.5% of the cheetah population has been diagnosed with sarcoptic mange. This is a skin disease caused by the Sarcoptes mite that is similar to human scabies.
“Although there are cheetahs in Kenya’s national parks and reserves, the highest cheetah numbers, about 80 per cent are found outside protected areas. Throughout Africa, it is estimated that only about 1,800 cheetahs live inside of protected areas. (...) The greatest threat to cheetahs,” continued Ms Wykstra, “is land use change: This is true throughout their entire range. The cheetah is a wide ranging species with each cheetah requiring some 20-300 square kilometers. Although home ranges do overlap, the same amount of land that can support up to 800 lions can only support 30-50 cheetahs.”
The other threat for cheetahs is the competition with lions for territory and with hyenas who steal their kills.