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Cheetah

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Cheetah
Acinonyx baby.jpg
Scientific Classification
Species

Cheetahs are any of the species of felines belonging to the taxonomic genus Acinonyx. They are perhaps best known for their great speed, going faster than the speed of a car on a clear free-way. They can run up to a hundred miles per hour for a very short amount of time. Their body is perfectly designed for running, their eyes for hunting, and the color of their fur for camouflage. They live all over the globe but mostly in hot or dry environments. They eat a wide variety of prey including deer and zebras, but most people know them for eating gazelles that few other predators can capture. Sadly these beautiful animals are greatly threatened.

Contents

Body Design

This picture of an A. jubatus shows the long, unique, and beautiful body of a cheetah.

The Cheetah (Acinonyx), meaning “the spotted one” in Hindu, has a very unique and beautiful body. Their fur is painted a beautiful tan with multiple small, round, black spots helping them to camouflage into their surroundings. They have black lines running down their face under their eyes, that look like a stream of tears, to help keep the sun out of their eyes[2]. Their large eyes help them hunt and seek out prey. They weigh from about seventy pounds to a hundred and forty pounds due to their slender body. Their head to body length is about forty-eight inches (around four feet) long, their height is about thirty-six inches (about three feet) tall, and their tail is about twenty-four inches (around two in a half feet) long[3]. They also have claws, like any other cat. However the cheetah is the only cat that does not have retractable claws. This feature is helpful in that the claws help dig into the ground, like cleats, and helps them to run faster[2].

Having a slender body, as well as a small head and long legs allows the cheetah to run from zero to sixty miles per hour in three seconds. They are able to reach speeds up to a little over a hundred miles per hour, reaching about twenty-four feet in one single stride while running[2]. Their large nostrils help them reach these speeds because they are then able to increase their oxygen intake. Also their enlarged heart and lungs help move the large amounts of oxygen through the body more efficiently[4]. Their spine is flexible and acts like a spring when they run. Also, their tail is designed to help them with their speed. The tail helps maintain their balance as they run and helps with quick turns[2]. They need to turn quickly when chasing their prey, like a gazelle. The gazelles turn rapidly to get away from their predator. However the cheetah’s tail helps them turn with the gazelle to help them keep up with the graceful and fast moving gazelle.

Life Cycle

While cheetahs are in the wild they can reach up to eight to twelve years old. If a cheetah is kept in captivity they can reach up to seventeen to twenty years old[5]. Females either live alone or form life-long bonds with many other male cheetahs. The males either live alone or form a group with two or more other males[5]. Male cheetahs live longer than females and reach sexual maturity at about a year old whereas females become sexually mature at about two years old. Cheetahs do not mate during a certain time. Females usually mate and reproduce with many different males. Their gestation period is about three months and then the female gives birth from two to as many as nine cubs[4][6]. After the female cheetah is about fourteen years old they stop reproducing[7].

The cubs weigh from about five to ten ounces and are born blind, with their spots, and are about a foot long[6]. When they are about six months old they are half the size of an adult. Their eyes start to open when they are four to eleven days old[4][7]. They drink milk from their mother for the first three to four months and then afterwards start eating meat. The cubs then accompany their mother on hunting trips when they are about eight weeks old where they learn how to hunt for themselves by watching her[5][6]. The majority of their hunting techniques are established while playing with their siblings. They stay with their mother until they can successfully hunt by themselves when they are between eighteen months and two years old. One of the main reasons for the scarce amount of cheetahs is because about seventy-five percent of cheetah cubs die before they are three months old. This is due to the fact that when the mother cheetah leaves to go hunt for food, the cubs are vulnerable and helpless against predators[6]. Overall infant mortality is ninety percent in the wild[5].

Ecology

Point Map of Acinonyx jubatus

Cheetahs have disappeared from huge areas of their historic range. The range of cheetahs was greatly reduced by the nineteen-seventies. They are still found in places like Africa, not including it's tropical rain forests and central Sahara, however have disappeared from about seventy-six percent of their historic range on the continent. Specific places the cheetah is native to is in: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Iran, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In regions of Africa and Asia, some of the European settlers, in earlier days, treated cheetahs as a vermin that needed to be exterminated[8]. Cheetahs are terrestrial, but have been known to climb trees on occasion[8]. They are found in open grassy habitats, dry forests, savanna woodland, semi-desert terrain and vegetation areas. The areas are temperate, tropical, and terrestrial[9].

Cheetahs have declined most drastically in northern and western Africa and their persistence in the eastern Sahara is unlikely. They are possibly extinct in Libya. Specimens have been collected near the Egyptian border, in Dahra, Sirtica, Bir Ghazal, Hamada-el-Homra, Fezzan, Khor-el-Gifa, Gikherra, El Ftaia, and Mizda. Cheetahs have also been noted on the Niger and Libyan borders as well as on the Niger and Algerian borders. The species might no longer be present in Akoukas Mountains[9]. The extinction of cheetahs is due to people, like hunters and farmers, killing them for either fur or in protection of their fields or animals. Just a few of the cheetah species that have now gone extinct are: †A. kurteni, †A. aicha, †A. intermedius, and †A. pardinensis. The only species left of the cheetah is the Acinonyx jubatus. There once was many kinds of this magnificent creature, but because of all of the killings of cheetahs there is only one species left and there is a scarce amount of them.

Predation

Cheetahs are carnivores and prey upon other animals. They usually prey on mammals that weigh about the same weight as themselves are smaller. Some of the cheetahs' favorite foods are the springbok, the impala, the Thomson's Gazelle, and the Grant's Gazelle[10]. Other animals the cheetah eats are deer, zebras, any type of gazelle, and wildebeests[11]. Cheetahs are such good hunters because of their eyesight rather than their sense of smell. When they hunt on their own they pick out a baby zebra or gazelle and chase it until it trips or the cheetah can catch up with it. When a cheetah is in a group of two or more, they take out adult animals. Cheetahs can go a few days without eating, usually they try to eat about a deer a day but if they have the chance they can eat a few deers at one time. About half of the time their hunts are successful and an interesting thing about cheetahs is that when they are annoyed (like when they cannot catch their prey) or when they are faced with danger, they growl[10].

The cheetah, though few are left, is not an animal to harass. The only animals that have the guts to try and attack them are lions and hyenas. Lions are unlikely to eat a cheetah after they attack them, but a hyena would have no problem eating one. However if it was a cub, there are multiple animals that would hunt and kill them, some of those animals being lions, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs and eagles. Mother cheetahs will try to defend their children, but they are usually unsuccessful[10]. Cheetahs are going extinct from being killed. Lions and hyenas are not to blame as much for adult cheetah deaths as much as poachers. One way to ease that and help prevent the extinction of the last species of cheetahs is to leave them alone in their environment so that humans can't kill them off.

Video

This video shows the speed and beauty of a cheetah.

Gallery

References

  1. Acinonyx Wikispecies. Web. 12 October 2012 (last-update).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus The Big Zoo. Web. 2 February 2013 (access).
  3. Cheetah Feline Conservation Federation. Web. 2 February 2013 (access).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Fitzgerald, Jakob and Alsaffar, Amir. Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) Tree of Life. Web. 2 February 2013 (access).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus Denver Zoo. Web. 2 February 2013 (access).
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Cheetah a-z animals. Web. 2 February 2013 (access).
  7. 7.0 7.1 Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus San Diego Zoo. Global. Web. 2012 (last-update).
  8. 8.0 8.1 Lehnert, E.Acinonyx jubatus cheetah Animal Diversity Web. Web. 2013 (last-update).
  9. 9.0 9.1 Acinonyx jubatus The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Web. 2008 (last-update).
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 What Do Cheetahs Eat Want to Know It. Web. 27 February 2013 (access).
  11. What Do Cheetahs Eat? What Do Animals Eat?. Web. 27 February 2013 (access).
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