An Ode to Cheetah's
Cheetah's are incredible animals. I think it is safe to say they are one of the most finely tuned and specialized large predators in the world. Along with some more images I made in Kenya last year I thought I would make a list of some interesting things about cheetah's. Like most of Africa's large predators, the cheetah is under incredible pressure from loss of habitat and persecution by humans and is classed as a vulnerable species. Such an iconic species should be appreciated and conserved along with the ecosystem it lives in.
Although this is a pretty commonly known fact it is still amazing to reiterate that cheetahs can reach a top speed reached during a hunt of at least 100km/h. There are even claims of speeds as high as 120km/h. This sort of velocity can only be achieved in a short burst though.
A king cheetah is a rare genetic variation that has distinctive markings where the spots join together and form stripes down the spine.
One of the biggest threats to the cheetah is a loss of genetic diversity. An already inbred genetic makeup with low variability is probably being made worse by isolating pockets of cheetah populations around the continent and not giving gene transfer a chance. It is hypothesized that a genetic bottleneck was created during the last ice age when other cheetah populations in North America, Europe and Asia became extinct leaving only a small, in-breeding population from which all current populations have sprung.
- Only about 7,500 individuals remain in the wild.
- Cheetahs were present in India until about the 1940's when they succumbed to hunting.
- Cheetah are easily tamed and have been popular pets for centuries particularly in the middle east where they were used for coursing by hunters. Apparently even Genghis Khan had pet cheetah.
- A cheetah uses its tail like a rudder to assist in high speed turns.
- Namibia has the largest population of cheetah in Africa and most of these live on commercial farmland. Because other larger predators like Hyena and Lions no longer live in much of this area the cheetahs find it easier to survive and the landowners are encouraged to co-exist with them. Many cheetah's are still killed by farmers though but government is working to prevent this.