Common name: Cheetah
HABITAT AND GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION
The cheetah, scientific name Acinonyx jubatus of the family Felidae, is a feline that is now found only in a few areas of the world: in Asia (Iran); in southern Africa (Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe); few specimens have been estimated in East Africa (Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania) and in the rest of Africa.
Its ideal habitat is the areas where tall grass grows with numerous bushes and with several raised points where it can observe the surrounding environment to identify prey.
CHARACTER, BEHAVIOR AND SOCIAL LIFE
Cheetah females are solitary or at most live with their young while males generally live with 2-3 other males who may be siblings, but not necessarily. These male coalitions are thought to be a mutual benefit especially for hunting when prey is of a certain size.
The coalition also has a keen sense of territory which is carefully delimited with urine and if any other male attempts to enter it, they are furious fights.
Contrary to what happens for example among ileons, in cheetahs it is the female who chooses who to mate with and there are no rivalries between males in this regard. The female does not mate unless she has several males to choose from or to mate with. There is no monogamy.
They are diurnal creatures.
The cheetah is the fastest mammal on earth reaching 103 km / h over distances of hundreds of meters and how fast it is can be deduced from the fact that a racehorse can barely exceed 70 km / h.
It has a characteristic spotted coat characterized by a white - yellowish background with numerous round or oval dark spots; only the throat and abdomen are free of spots. The last part of the tail is characterized by four to six black rings and a white lock at the end. These rings are very important as they are different in each individual and therefore represent a distinctive character of each specimen. A peculiarity of the tail is that in the cheetah it functions as a rudder when running, especially during sharp turns.
It is very elegant with a slender, slender body and very long and sturdy legs.
The cheetah's head is small in proportion to the rest of the body, with a muzzle characterized by two black stripes running parallel to the nose, almost as if they were tears, running from the eyes to the jaw. It is thought that this particularity allows it not to be dazzled by the sun while running.
They have particularly developed eyesight.
It is the only feline to have semi-retractable nails, this allows for greater grip in the ground while running.
Compared to other felines, they don't have particularly large teeth. This fact is explained considering that, given that the nostrils are very developed, probably, in the course of evolution, such large nostrils were necessary to allow a greater inflow of air to the lungs (a fundamental element during running) and therefore the space for the roots of the teeth is reduced. In fact, the whole body of the cheetah is a racing car, a real custom-built with big lungs, big heart, big liver, all aimed at running.
The cheetah communicates through sounds of various kinds with its peers, audible up to a couple of kilometers away.
It is a carnivore and its favorite prey is the gazelle but it also feeds on impalas, rabbits, warthogs, etc.
Being a diurnal animal, it hunts early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
The victim is then grabbed by the throat and strangled if of a certain size if a small size is crushed the skull.
Usually only one female with the young goes hunting every day (and therefore they eat every day). An adult alone typically eats every 2-5 days.
Often its prey is stolen from it by other animals, for example by hyenas, so it eats very quickly (see video above).
REPRODUCTION AND GROWTH OF THE SMALL
The females can reproduce at any time of the year and are polyestrus with a very short cycle of twelve days and remain fertile for two to three days. There is no monogamy and it is the female who chooses the males to mate with.
The female has a pregnancy of 90-95 days at the end of which she can give birth to 1 to 8 puppies even if the average is 3-5. At birth the puppies are very small weighing about 150-300 gr. They feature a gray colored coat with a thick mane along the back that helps blend in better with tall, dry grass. This coat will remain in the young cheetah for up to three months (sometimes up to two years of age).
During the first weeks, the cubs are moved every day by their mother to try to avoid predators and always find safer places. Despite these precautions, the infant mortality rate is generally very high, even 90%, as the mother must be absent to feed and the lions, the major predators of the little cheetahs, remain in ambush.
They are weaned at 3 months of age. They typically stay with their mother for up to 13-20 months. Sexual maturity is reached around two years of age.
STATE OF THE POPULATION
The cheetah is classified in the IUNC Red list among vulnerable species, VULNERABLE (VU) ie at high risk of extinction in the wild.
The estimates made show that the cheetah population is reduced to only 7,500 specimens worldwide distributed as follows: 4500 specimens in southern Africa (Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe); 2570 specimens in East Africa (Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania); 250 specimens in the rest of Africa and a handful in Iran. Less than half of the estimated population lives in protected areas but these are not sufficient to guarantee the non-extinction of this species if also associated with the fact that infant mortality is about 90%.
Such a low population is due to the destruction and fragmentation of the cheetah's natural habitat as well as poaching. A tendency has been observed to kill the mother and take the puppies and then sell them as pets as they can be tamed. The depletion of habitats is also another important factor for the survival of this species as its favorite prey tend to be scarce and therefore it competes with humans, with the breeders by whom it is seen and treated as a threat.
The cheetah is listed in Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora, known simply as the "Washington Convention") which includes endangered species whose trade is permitted only in exceptional cases.
In practice it has been observed that there are several factors that do not bode well for the survival of this species and are: insecurity and political instability in some ecologically important areas and the lack of political will to promote habitat conservation. cheetah; the lack of financial resources to support conservation and incentivize local populations to conserve wildlife; > the lack of environmental awareness which leads both to a fragmentation and destruction of the cheetah's natural habitats and to having no consideration for biodiversity; the cheetah's lifestyle cannot be changed, it is not an adaptable animal.
SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND ECOSYSTEM IMPORTANCE
The cheetah was heavily hunted for its fur. Fortunately, today it has been realized that it is much more profitable for safaris and zoos.Note