The cheetah, also called the hunting leopard, is a big cat found in eastern and southern Africa. Four cheetahs call Felidae Centre home; Chaka, Zena, Max and Lexi. Despite being territorial cats, they are sociable and enjoy one another’s company. Zena, the baby of the farm, particularly enjoys playing with one of the dogs on the reserve and loves getting attention from visitors. Although cheetahs are the only big cat that cannot roar they purr and ‘chirp’ to communicate their moods. In fact, they are the only big cat that can purr!
These cats have slender, long legs, with a small head with distinct dark stripes (tear marks) from inside corner of the eyes to the mouth. Nearly 2000 small round or oval black spots over their entire body! Different from other big cats, a cheetah’s claws are only semi-retractable.
Cheetahs are mainly diurnal, meaning they are most active at sunrise and sunset. They prefer to rest in a place with a clear view, typically somewhere elevated. They are usually seen in pairs (males or mothers with youngsters) or alone (females). Males like to form groups called coalitions (usually brothers sticking together) to live and hunt together. Home ranges overlap and although males mark their areas with urine, not all of them demonstrate territorial behaviors. The cheetah is the fastest animal on land and relies on its speed to overtake and catch its prey.
Cheetahs avoid thickets and riverine forests, opting instead for more open woodland and plains. Arid areas allow for them to run, a necessity when hunting. The presence of prey is important, as is a large area for roaming.
Cheetahs typically eat medium sized animals, including; impala, springbok and other small antelope, calves of larger antelope, ground-living birds, such as korhaans, guinea-fowl, hares and porcupines. Coalitions of males, typically 3 or 4 brothers, can take down even larger prey, such as young zebra, wildebeest and even kudu. The diet varies depending on the area the cheetah lives in, as do their hunting habits.
Cheetahs have a relatively short gestation period of 3 months. They typically have 3-5 cubs at a time. In the wild a mother cheetah moves her cubs almost constantly to avoid attacks. Offspring generally stay with their mother 13-20 months until they gain enough skills and independence to survive on their own.
Max and Lexi were born 12 May 2015 and came to the farm that same year. Although they were hand raised by their previous owner to be pets, they prefer to keep their distance from people. They are fast friends and most days can be found lounging in the shade. Currently plans are being made to build them an even larger enclosure to provide them with minimal human contact.
Chaka was born on 21 November, 2009. He was hand raised by humans and originally came to Felidae for potential breeding purposes. After 1 year of no mating his owner decided to sell him, and we were happy to provide him with a permanent home! Chaka is becoming friends with Zena, and currently plays a role during our tours for educational purposes. Although he is the largest cheetah on the farm, his slim wind resistant build brings his weight to only 36 kg! While he dislikes interacting with anyone other than Chriszanne or Nicol, he loves to stretch out by the edge of the enclosure and show of his spots during tours.
Zena is the youngest cheetah on the farm, currently 10 months old. She came to the farm as a kitten and became best friends with one of the small Jack Russel Terriers, Sandy! Although she is much larger than Sandy now, the two remain friends and play together often. Zena currently lives in her own enclosure and plays a large role in the tours. Visitors have the option to interact with her, pet her, and even take pictures with her! When she has grown a little more, she will join Chaka in his larger enclosure.
Reduced ability to survive in protected areas due to presence of bigger and more aggressive predators like lions and hyenas.
Loss of habitat and decrease of prey.
Conflict with game farmers over livestock.
Fragmentation of population leading to inbreeding and number depletions.
Public lack of knowledge.
Lack of self-sustaining captive population (breeding in captivity is rare!)
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