The cheetah is a large cat identified by black marks (so-called "tear marks"), running down from the inner eye along the nose to the outside of the mouth. This feline is an extremely agile animal, having powerful hind legs and a very flexible, muscular spine. The body is long and slender, covered with coarse yellowish fur with small black markings. The tail is spotted with ringed markings, having a black tip on its end. In addition, the tail is quite long, helping the cheetah to keep balance and change direction. The head is small and the eyes are set high, which help them find potential prey in the grasslands. The claws of a cheetah are non-retractable; they dig their claws into the ground, which enhances their grip at high speed.
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
A cursorial organism is one that is adapted specifically to run. An animal can be considered cursorial if it has the ability to run fast (e.g. chee...
Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
Pursuit predation is a form of predation in which predators actively give chase to their prey, either solitarily or as a group. Pursuit predators r...
Ambush predators are carnivorous animals that capture or trap prey by stealth, luring, or by (typically instinctive) strategies utilizing an elemen...
Nomadic animals regularly move to and from the same areas within a well-defined range. Most animals travel in groups in search of better territorie...
Polygyny is a mating system in which one male lives and mates with multiple females but each female only mates with a single male.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
Cheetahs are distributed over eastern and southern Africa as well as in the Middle East. They typically inhabit grasslands and savannas but may also be found in various habitats such as mountainous areas and valleys. In order to hide from predators, these animals prefer an environment with lush vegetation such as tall grass or bushes.
Unlike other large African predators such as lions or hyenas, cheetahs are most active during the day; this way they avoid competition for food with these animals. Cheetahs live in three main social groups: females and their cubs, male "coalitions", and solitary males. Females lead a nomadic life searching for prey in large home ranges, males are more sedentary and instead establish much smaller territories in areas with plentiful prey and access to females. The home range of a cheetah can cover a large territory, sometimes overlapping with that of another cheetah or a lion. Hunting is the major activity of cheetahs throughout the day, with peaks during dawn and dusk. Groups rest in grassy clearings after dusk. Cheetahs often inspect their vicinity at observation points such as elevations to check for prey or larger carnivores; even while resting, they take turns at keeping a lookout. When hunting cheetahs use their vision instead of their sense of smell; they keep a lookout for prey from resting sites or low branches. They will stalk they prey, trying to stay unnoticed in cover, and approach as close as possible, often within 60 to 70 m (200 to 230 ft) of the prey. They can also lie hidden in cover and wait for the prey to come nearer. In areas of minimal cover cheetahs will approach within 200 m (660 ft) of the prey and start the chase. These spotted felids are very vocal and have a broad repertoire of calls and sounds such as chirps (or a "stutter-barks"), churrs (or churtlings), purring, bleating, coughing, growling, hissing, meowing and moaning (or yowling). Other vocalisations include gurgling noise, "nyam nyam" sound "ihn ihn" sound to gather cubs, and a "prr prr" to guide them on a journey. A low-pitched alarm call is used to warn the cubs to stand still.
Cheetahs are carnivores. They feed mainly upon gazelles while small and medium-sized ungulates such as impalas are a good complement to their usual diet. When there is a shortage of suitable food, they can also consume small species such as hares or birds.
Cheetahs have a polygynous mating system, where a male mates with multiple females. In addition, male cheetahs associate with females only for mating and do not provide parental care. These animals breed all year round. The period of gestation lasts about three months, after which 2-5 cubs are born. Newborn babies are blind, being completely vulnerable. Over the following few months, the cubs are breastfed until they start eating meat. Soon the young start to accompany their mother during the hunt in order to watch and learn hunting skills. Also, they learn hunting techniques while playing with their siblings. The cubs live with their mother until they are able to hunt independently. Then, between the age of 18 months and 2 years, they leave to find their own territory. Female cheetahs reach reproductive maturity at 21-22 months old.
The major threats to the cheetah population include diseases, habitat loss, hunting, and direct persecution. These animals are persecuted by farmers due to being predators, and hunting livestock. The development of tourism in the areas of their habitat can become another serious threat: tourist vehicles can drive the cheetahs away from their kills and separate cubs from their mother. The cheetahs are known to have extremely low genetic variation, which makes the survival of this species even more difficult.
The global population of cheetahs is currently decreasing, and on the IUCN Red List, the species is classified as Vulnerable (VU). The cheetah population in Africa is around 6.674 mature individuals. In addition, about 60-100 cheetahs live in small isolated populations in Iran.
Due to being predators, cheetahs control populations of prey species they feed upon. Otherwise, populations of these animals could become so large, that they would break down the whole food web, eating all the vegetation in the area and ruining the soil. On the other hand, cheetahs hunt on weak or sick animals, thus not allowing weaker genes to pass to the next generations and maintaining the health within prey species.