Cheetah | African Wildlife Foundation

The cheetah’s habitat is now
only 25% of its former size

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Cheetah

Conservation Status:

Vulnerable

  • Population has decreased 30% over the last 18 years
  • Only 7,500 adults remain in the wild
  • Approximately 50 to 75% of cubs die within months

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Acinonyx jubatus

Weight

110 to 140 lb.

Size

30 in. at the shoulder

Life span

10 to 20 years

Habitat

Open plains

Diet

Carnivorous

Gestation

90 to 95 days

Predators

Eagles, humans, hyenas, lions

Habitat

Where do cheetahs live?

The cheetah's habitat has been reduced by 76%, and they occur widely but sparsely in the regions they still inhabit. Southern and Eastern Africa are strongholds for cheetah populations.

Tags: Benin, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kazungula, Kilimanjaro, Limpopo, Zambezi, East Africa, Southern Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What do cheetahs look like?

Cheetahs have long, slim, muscular legs; a small, rounded head set on a long neck; a flexible spine; a deep chest; special pads on its feet for traction; and a long tail for balance. It is also the only cat that cannot retract its claws, an adaptation to help maintain traction like a soccer player’s cleats. It also bears distinctive black "tear tracks" running from the inside corner of each eye to the mouth, which may serve as an anti-glare mechanism for daytime hunting.

Behavior & Diet

The cheetah is a fast but timid predator.

Cheetahs usually prey on small antelopes such as Thomson's gazelles and impalas, but they also hunt small mammals and birds. The cheetah gets as close to the prey as possible, then in a burst of speed, it tries to outrun its quarry. Once the cheetah closes in, it knocks the prey to the ground with its paw and suffocates the animal with a bite to the neck. Once a cheetah has made a kill, it eats quickly and keeps an eye out for scavengers—lions, leopards, hyenas, vultures, and jackals will steal from this timid predator.

Cheetahs are a little introverted.

The cheetah is basically a solitary animal. At times, a male will accompany a female for a short while after mating, but most often, the female is alone or with her cubs. Cheetah mothers spend a long time teaching their young how to hunt. Small, live antelopes are brought back to the cubs so they can learn to chase and catch them.

Gallery
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Challenges

Human-wildlife conflict threatens cheetah survival.

Cheetahs tend to encounter conflict with farmers when loss of their natural prey leads them to attack livestock, and farmers kill them, as pests, in retaliation.

Habitat loss also presents a major threat to cheetahs.

As human populations grow and expand, agriculture, roads, and settlements destroy the open grasslands that cheetahs favor.

Solutions

Our solutions to conserving the cheetah:

  • Work with communities.

    We engage communities living near cheetahs to create sustainable solutions for agricultural and settlement growth by providing incentives and training on best practices. This allows for both cheetahs and farmers to have space in which to live without encroaching on one another.

  • Minimize human-wildlife conflict.

    African Wildlife Foundation provides both proactive and reactive strategies to prevent human-wildlife conflict. We work with local communities to construct bomas—enclosures for livestock that protect them from cheetahs. We also provide consolation funding to farmers who have lost livestock to cheetah predation. This allows farmers to replace lost livestock, with the assurance that they will not retaliate against cheetahs.

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