Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)
The cheetah is built for speed with long legs and non-retractable claws. The cheetah is considered the fastest land animal in the world. The cheetah can run as fast as 70 to 75 miles per hour and rely on their speed to hunt.
The cheetah is a carnivore and diurnal hunter, that hunts by sight usually in the early in the morning or later in the evening when it is still cool. A cheetah’s prey is usually less than 100 pounds, often including Thomson’s gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii), Grant’s gazelle (Nanger granti), springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), impala (Aepyceros melampus), young wildebeest (Connochaetes sp.), young Zebra (Equus quagga), African hare (Lepus microtis) and guineafowl. The cheetah stalks its prey to within 30 feet to 100 feet, before chasing the prey. The chases usually lasts less than a minute, and the cheetah will give up if it fails to make a kill quickly. The cheetah is successful about 50 percent of the time, killing its prey by tripping it and suffocating the prey by biting its throat. The cheetah will devour its kill as rapidly as possible before the kill is taken by stronger predators, such as lion (Panthera leo), spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), leopard (Panthera pardus), and African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus). Cheetah will usually avoid fighting and surrender its kill rather than risk an injury that could be life threatening. These same predators are also responsible for most cheetah cub deaths.
The cheetah is a threatened species with only about 12,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild, mostly in Africa. There are several geographically isolated populations of cheetah spread across twenty-five African countries, with the largest population (approximately 2,500) living in Namibia. There is also a small population of about fifty cheetah that live in Iran. The cheetah once lived in India, but has been extinct in India since the 1940s. There is a plan to reintroduce the cheetah in India, but it has not been executed yet.