Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are lean, muscular cats, approximately 40 to 60 kilograms (90 to 130 pounds) in weight. They have spotted coats and a “tear stripe” running from eye to cheek. Their silhouette is long and lanky. Unlike the rest of the cat family, cheetahs do not have retractable claws.
You have a reasonable chance of observing cheetahs in Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Amboseli, Maasai Mara and Nairobi National Parks. They are most common in savannah parks and wherever there are sufficient stocks of their preferred prey species such as Thomson’s gazelles. They are the most endangered of the three large cats perhaps because, unlike leopards, they are unable to adapt easily to the changes wrought to their habitat by man, who is gradually forcing them into marginal areas.
Cheetahs are diurnal animals with activity peaks at dawn. In game parks where they are hassled by tourist cars, they have taken to hunting during the heat of the day, at noon when tourists return to the lodges for lunch.
Cheetahs are generally silent, solitary animals except for consorting pairs and females with dependent offspring. Young animals which have just left their mother tend to stay together for a time and males sometimes band together temporarily to defend a territory.
Males and females only socialize whilst the female is on heat. They select breeding areas that have a reasonable number of gazelles, with good hiding places for cubs, perennial water and relatively low densities of possible cub predators. Males congregate in these areas which allows them to mate with local females.
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