| The cheetah is popular with most safari-goers, and your chances to see it in East
Africa are good, provided you visit park
where it is known to live. Unlike other cats, it hunts in daylight, so it's active during
the days, when you are game
Hunting by speed
It is the fastest of all land mammals, capable of speeds exceeding 100 km/h or 60 mph.
It utilizes its speed when hunting, which it mainly does in open land, such as grassland
The cheetah first tries to approach its prey as close as possible, either by staying
out of sight behind shrubs, in depressions etc, or by openly moving straight towards
the prey, relying on it's camouflage marking. When close enough, it quickly accelerates
and races towards the prey. The cheetah is a sprinter, and if it doesn't catch the prey
within a few hundred metres/yards, it abandons the attempt. If the prey is caught and
toppled over, the cheetah suffocates it by biting its throat, or sometimes its muzzle,
keeping the grip until the prey is dead.
Can't protect the food
As the cheetah hunts in daylight, soaring vultures may quickly find out that it has
made a kill, and start circling the spot. This may attract larger predators, such as
lions or hyaenas, which can easily steal the prey; the much weaker cheetah rarely tries
to protect the food, but abandons it when the lions or hyaenas approach. If possible,
the cheetah may try to hide the kill by dragging it into shrubs or high grass before
starting to eat, to prevent vultures from seeing it. Cheetahs have even been known to
hide their prey below safari jeeps.
Once it starts eating, the cheetah bolts its food, to minimize the loss, should a competitor
turn up to steal it. Cheetahs have been observed eating 14 kg/30 lb of meat in one sitting.
Once it has finished eating, it abandons the remains, and doesn't return for more later.
It always eats freshly killed prey; it is the only large predator in Africa that doesn't
Cheetahs hunt alone or in small groups, usually consisting of a mother and her cubs
or two or three brothers or sisters. Its most common prey are herbivores weighing up
to 40 kg/90 lb, for example gazelles, impalas and calves of larger antelopes. It may
also hunt rabbits and hares. Two male cheetahs may also tackle larger prey, and have
been seen hunting zebras and young buffalos.
Apart from larger carnivores, such as hyaenas and lions that may steal food and kill
cubs, the cheetah's main enemy is us humans. The main reason is its spotted fur, used
for expensive clothing. Most African countries have legislation protecting the cheetah,
but hunting has not stopped altogether. Also safari tourism may be a threat to cheetahs,
at least to small populations in small parks. It is a popular animal, and safari vehicles
crowding around may disturb its hunting attempts.
The African cheetahs (it is very close to extinct outside of Africa) have little genetic
variation. This is probably a result from some stage in the history of the cheetah,
when the total population of the species consisted of few individuals. Poor genetic
variation makes a species vulnerable to epidemics.
Cheetahs on safaris
Cheetahs are found in many parks, but not in great numbers, so they are not as easily
seen as for example lions. Your best chances are in renowned cat parks, such as Serengeti
and Ngorongoro in Tanzania and Masai
Mara in Kenya. Cheetahs prefers open land, so you won't find them in mountains