Cheetahs in Pilanesberg
The cheetah is the fastest land animal, reaching between 112-120km/h. It is able to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in three seconds.
The cheetah is known as the only cat with non-retractable claws and pads that don’t allow gripping, this being the reason for the cheetah not being able to climb up trees. Cheetahs prefers areas of Pilanesberg where prey is abundant, such as open biotope and thick brush.
The cheetah was once hunted for its fur, but now is threatened by the loss of habitat and prey.
The cheetah has a deep chest and narrow waist. The short and coarse fur is tan with round black spots, and the spots are 2-3cm across. The head is very small in size, with high-set eyes. Black “tear” marks help to keep the sunlight out of the cheetah’s eyes, aid in hunting and seeing long distance. The cheetah is a sprinter. It cannot run long distance, as its body temperature will get too high.
The adult cheetah weighs 36-65kg. The body length is 115-135cm, with the shoulder length being 67-94cm. The male is slightly larger than the female.
Cheetahs have an unusually low genetic variability, very low sperm count and deformed flagella (this is due to the inbreeding during an ice age era). Of all the big cats, it’s the least able to adapt to a new environment, and finds it very difficult to breed in captivity. It is also the only big cat without the ability to roar. Large nostrils allow for increased oxygen intake, and the enlarged heart and lungs work together to circulate the oxygen efficiently.
The cheetah is a carnivore, and eats mammals under 40kg (such as Thomson’s gazelle, springbok and impala). It hunts by vision, as opposed to scent.
Females are solitary, and avoid each other. They live alone except when they are raising their cubs, which they also do on their own. Females mature between 20-24 months, and males at ±12 months even though they don’t mate until they reach 3 years of age.
Mating occurs throughout the year. Females can give birth to up to 9 cubs, although the average litter size is 3-5 cubs. The gestation period is 90-98 days. Cubs weigh 150-300 grams at birth, and their spots are present from the beginning. The mother leaves her cubs when they are between the ages of 13-20 months. After this, the cubs form a “siblings” group which they remain a part of for another 6 months. Once the 6 months are over, the females leave the group and the brothers remain together for life.
Males are very social, and live in groups. They are also very territorial, and attempt to kill any intruders.