Excitement builds as the planet’s fastest terrestrial animal pricks its ears and begins to move. Your guide slowly follows at a distance as not to disturb its intentions. After what appears to be a lifetime of waiting the cheetah bursts into action, the Thomson’s gazelle scatter but with exceptional agility and the ability to reach speeds of over 100 km/h in 3 seconds, the outcome is inevitable. A cheetah hunt is truly something to behold.
The smallest of Africa’s 3 big cats, the cheetah is a favourite amongst many of our clients. Whether it is its elegance, its exciting hunting style or the knowledge it is a species whose survival hangs in the balance, it has a special place in the heart of most visitors to Africa.
The cheetah is the sole member of its genus, acinonyx. Its closest relatives are the cougar of North America and the jaguarundi of Latin America. It is largely a solitary cat but if you were to see more than 1 cheetah together it would be a female with dependents or a coalition of males. They are actually taller than their leopard cousins standing 70-90 cm at the shoulder but are less powerfully built and lighter, weighing a maximum of 65 kg. They require huge territories in which to flourish, up to 1,650 km² in some cases. For this reason they do not do well in fenced private reserves and have a very low density across the continent. Even more pressure is put on population numbers by predation of cubs. In one particular study an astonishing 95% of cubs were predated by either lions, spotted hyenas, leopards, honey badgers, jackals and even secretary birds.
Although the cheetah is diurnal and therefore mostly active by day it can still be relatively difficult to view on safari. This is largely due to its low population densities, rarely exceeding more than 2 individuals per 100 km². This is only 10-30% of the population densities of lions, leopards, tigers and jaguars. However, as with most animals they have their particular strongholds where sightings can be significantly increased. It is therefore recommended to discuss your desires with us so we can design an itinerary that significantly increases your chances of observing these elegant big cats.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have listed the cheetah as a vulnerable species with population trends reported as decreasing. There are only a reported 6700 of these elegant cats remaining throughout Africa. Conservationists remain concerned due to the low population numbers, decreasing trend and ongoing threats. It has been estimated that they now only occur in 10% of their historic African range. This can be sub-divided into 22% of their former southern African range and an alarming 6% of their east African range. The main threats to their survival is overwhelmingly habitat loss due to their special requirement of vast tracts of land. To a lesser extent human conflict, prey loss, road traffic accidents and being accidentally caught in snares all contribute to their current demise.
By electing to visit these elegant animals with Ultimate Wildlife Adventures you are contributing to their protection and chances of future survival, as well as signing up for an experience of a lifetime.
Contact us to discuss how we can include the cheetah in your perfect wildlife holiday itinerary.
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