Able to obtain speeds of 60 mph within 3 seconds, the cheetah is the fastest animal on land. Their body is built for ultimate athletic agility: thin legs, deep, slender chest, small, arched skull, and narrow build. They kill their prey by starting in a full sprint ~33 yds away. A chase to the kill won’t last longer than 20-60 seconds, covering a distance of 183 yrds. Should there be a large gap between the cheetah and its prey, the cheetah will consistently fail, being that they are built only for speed, not endurance.
As fast as these creatures are, they are approaching even faster levels endangerment. Only ~7,500 adult cheetahs are alive. This is 30% less than it was in 1975. Cheetahs, in general, are extremely vulnerable to extinction. Cheetah subspecies in Iran and northwest Africa are considered critically endangered.
Only seven cheetahs are left in Mpala, and we are lucky enough to get a photo of this female. Why so few? Must I repeat – humans?! But there actually other factors that may be contributing to their highly endangered status: reduced habitat, low levels of genetic variation, which would cause for reduced survival if “bad” (or deleterious) genes get exposed through their small population, and lions.
Although cheetah cubs are produced often in the wild (~18 month intervals), these cubs have a very high mortality rate due mainly to large carnivores, such as lions. For instance, on the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania, cubs experience a mortality rate of 95% due exclusively to lion predation. Following this trend in low cub mortality rate, it has been shown that across Africa, lion dense regions are correlated with low cheetah densities.
But what happens if a cub to make it to maturity? i.e. Where do they go? Females after six months of living with her brothers and sisters become solitary and her littermates. The only other time she will be found with another cheetah again is when she is mating or tending her cubs. Males, on the other hand, remain in “coalitions” (think of them as college frat boys that remain with their “Greek bros” constantly until they meet up with the ladies). These coalitions literally are made up of their litter-mate brothers, and they will remain together for life. Thus, males have almost no participation in parenting.
Docile. Comparatively speaking (i.e. compared to a lion), cheetahs are docile. They are offstandish, shy creatures who will avoid a fight at any cost. And, yes, it does seem that cheetahs can be relatively tamed (not necessarily domesticated). A long history of kings have fondly enjoyed them as pets- not that this should be encouraged present day unless the creature could not go back into the wild and the king were certified!
As an aside: does anyone happen to recall the name of Cleopatra’s, Daughter of Isis’, cheetah?
Modeling of Gabby Wild of clothing designed by Amelia Brown for the Cornell Fashion Design League. The modern Middle Eastern/Islamic collection made me think of Cleopatra! If I were savvy at photoshop, I’d have placed a cheetah in there! Regardless, enjoy Amelia’s beautiful design work!