Not even a Ferrari or a Bugatti can beat the acceleration of the cheetah. The fastest living animal on land, the cheetah can accelerate from 0 – 70km/h in only two seconds and reach speeds of up to 120km/h. They do, however, have low stamina and their bodies heat up considerably on a run. This is ideal for females as their body temperature has to escalate to at least 40°C to enable ovulation; but it can be detrimental to males, because their sperm will burn if their body temperature rises above 38°C.
Cheetahs have excellent vision, which is a great attribute for hunting. They are able to see up to three kilometers away, enabling them to scan the horizon before they stalk their prey. They are intelligent creatures, ensuring greater success with hunting, because they are wise enough to conserve their energy when they realise that prey is too far away. Cheetahs tend to hunt small- and medium-sized antelope such as duiker, impala and springbok; but have been known to go for larger prey, such as wildebeest.
Female cheetahs are solitary; whereas males form groups known as coalitions. These usually consist of brothers and cousins. Males and females will come together to mate and females will rear the offspring. After about 18 months, once they have been taught to hunt and fend for themselves, the mother will leave the cubs. Cheetahs are diurnal (active during the day) in order to reduce competition for food with lions and hyenas.
Cheetahs are sleek and lithe. Their hip-bones stick out quite prominently and this is an indication that they are healthy. If the hip bones cannot be seen then the cheetah is too fat. On the other hand, if the hip bones are too prominent then the cat is too thin. Their backbones are very flexible and when they run all four paws lift off the ground. They use their semi-retractable claws for traction. They have rough pads under their feet, which also assist with running. Their soft, gentle purring helps them to cool down and they use their whiskers to feel the pulse of the animal to ensure that it is dead. Some animals “play dead” in an attempt to fool predators. These beautiful big cats are further distinguished by the marks on their faces, which are known as “tear” marks. There are a few folk tales that explain the reason for these markings, but their purpose is to act as “sunglasses” because they cut sunlight and filter UV rays. They also assist in teaching cubs how to bite.
Sadly, there are less than 10 000 cheetahs left in the wild today. In centuries past they used to roam throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. In the late 1500s, Akbar the Great of India personally owned 9 000 cheetahs which he kept as pets and used for hunting. Today cheetahs are threatened by habitat loss and human conflict, particularly with farmers who view them as a threat to their livestock. Furthermore, one in every four cubs is born with a genetic deficiency. Weak genes are a result of inbreeding, which occurred amongst cheetahs as a result of habitat loss. In 2001, Inverdoorn Game Reserve started the Western Cape Cheetah Conservation in an aim to raise awareness about the cheetah's plight. Furthermore, the centre aims to increase genetic diversity by pairing unrelated cheetahs for breeding and rehabilitating others for release into the wild. Guests at Inverdoorn can see wild cheetahs on safari, watch them run after the sunset safari or meet tame cheetahs Velvet and Iziba.*
*Cheetah interactions are subject to availability and the right weather conditions. If you are travelling to the game reserve with children 16 years and under, for their safety, they will not be able join you when interacting with the cheetah. Babysitting services are available, if required.