No car, animal or jet can beat the acceleration of the cheetah. The fastest 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; however, it can be detrimental to males as it can kill their sperm if their body temperature spikes above 38.6®C. At Inverdoorn the female cheetahs are exercised with daily runs, except when it has been raining as the wet grounds may cause the cheetahs to slip and hurt themselves.
Cheetahs have excellent vision, which is one of their greatest hunting attributes, and are able to see up to three kilometers away enabling them to scan the horizon before they stalk their prey. They like to find elevated poistions in order to see even further. Cheetahs are very intelligent creatures and this ensures a more successful kill, because they are wise enough to conserve their energy when they realise that prey is too far away. They do not arrogantly stalk unrealistic prey. Instead, they stick to small- and medium-sized antelope such as duiker, impala and springbok. The females hunt and will pursue this activity alone; whereas the males will hunt in a coalition, often made up of brothers and cousins. Cubs observe their mothers hunting for eight months and then start learning themselves, applying what they have observed. Cheetahs are active in the daylight in order to reduce competition with lions and leopards. They are smaller than lions and leopards and, thus, are diurnal as they cannot compete with the other big cats.
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. When they are running their flexibility is beautifully displayed as their back legs go past their front legs and their front legs go past their behind. They use their claws, which are semi-retractable, for traction. They have rough pads under their feet, which assist with running. Their soft, gentle purring helps them to cool down and they use their whiskers to feel the pulse of the animal and ensure that it is dead, as some animals employ the technique of “playing dead” in an attempt to fool their 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 only 6 000 cheetahs left in the world today; whereas they used to roam throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. Akbar the Great of India once personally owned 9 000. At Inverdoorn there are 14 cheetahs, four of which are tame. They are brought to Inverdoorn from across South Africa, as well as Namibia and Botswana so that the gene pool remains as wide as possible. A wider gene pool will stregthen the gene pool and result in stronger cubs.
PO BOX 304 SEA POINT 8060
CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA