Cheetahs are the fastest land mammal in the world reaching speeds of up to 100km/h for 300 to 400 meters before having to stop. Cheetahs prefer savanna, open grasslands to semi desert terrains found in Kidepo Valley National Park in Uganda. The openness of the park with its open grasslands fits the cheetahs’ lifestyle and manner in which they hunt. The body of the cheetah is built for speed. Cheetahs belong to the cat family, they are the smaller than other members of the cat family and the only big cat that cannot roar, they usually purr and chirp when they are grooming or sitting near other cheetahs. Cheetahs are scientifically known as Acinoyx Jubatus. They weigh between 45 to 60kg. Females are slightly shorter compared to the males. Cheetahs have small heads for less air resistance, very large nostrils to allow maximum oxygen in take, a slender body with long legs, loose hips, flexible spine and tail that flattens towards the end to act as a rudder to help keep its balance while running at high speeds. Cheetahs have wide nostrils and large lungs combined with a powerful heart and strong arteries to provide more oxygen to their muscles. Cheetahs have a black tear line that starts a round the edge of the eyes running down to the outer edges of the mouth. The dark color aid its vision by absorbing excess light thus preventing too much glare into the eyes. Cheetah cubs have a silvery mane on their necks and shoulders that disappear as they get older. Adults have gold coats with black spots both small and large and the pattern of spots is unique to each cheetah. The fur of cheetah cubs is darker than that of adults. Cheetahs have amazing eyesight during the day and can spot prey from 5km away.
Cheetahs are carnivores that feed entirely on meat. Their diet consists of antelopes, impalas, zebras and warthogs. Before starting the chase, the cheetahs’ camouflages against the tall grasses and quietly sneak up until they are confident of the attack. They burst out using their tails as a rudder to help balance while making sharp turns. After the cheetah has caught its prey, they will bring it to a shady hiding place so other animals don’t see it. Hunting is usually done in the morning and in the evening. Females usually hunt alone. Cheetahs only need to drink water once every 3 to 4 days.
Adult male cheetahs are strong territorial animals and they cover a wide area of about 37 to 160sqkm. Cubs accompany their mothers when they are 5 to 6 weeks old. Male cheetahs live alone or in small groups often with their littermates. Males reach maturity after 12 months and females after 2 years. Despite their early maturity both males and females do not start mating until they are 3 years. Gestation period takes about 90 to 98days. Female gives birth to 3 to 4 cubs at a time. In the first weeks she moves the cubs from den to den hiding them while she goes out hunting, since they are vulnerable to predators such as large eagles, lions and hyenas. Cubs start following their mothers at a round 6 weeks. They practice hunting though play with each other. After a year and a half their mother leaves them to breed again. The cubs stay together until the female reach sexual maturity at a round 2 years. At that point other male cheetahs chase the male cubs off. But male off springs often stay together for life forming a coalition which helps the male cheetah gain territory. Predators of the cheetah include lions, hyenas, large eagles which usually kill cubs. Cheetahs usually live 7 to 10 years in the wild and 16 years in captivity.