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|Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus|
|Tweet Topic Started: Mar 3 2012, 02:28 PM (19,299 Views)|
|Taipan||Mar 3 2012, 02:28 PM Post #1|
Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus
Temporal range: Late Pliocene to Recent
Species: Acinonyx jubatus
The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a large-sized feline (family Felidae) inhabiting most of Africa and parts of the Middle East. The cheetah is the only extant member of the genus Acinonyx, most notable for modifications in the species' paws. As such, it is the only felid with non-retractable claws and pads that, by their scope, disallow gripping (therefore cheetahs cannot climb vertical trees, although they are generally capable of reaching easily accessible branches). The cheetah, however, achieves by far the fastest land speed of any living animal—between 112 and 120 km/h (70 and 75 mph) in short bursts covering distances up to 500 m (1,600 ft), and has the ability to accelerate from 0 to over 100 km/h (62 mph) in three seconds.
The word "cheetah" is derived from the Sanskrit word citrakāyaḥ, meaning "variegated", via the Hindi चीता cītā.
Genetics and classification
The genus name, Acinonyx, means "no-move-claw" in Greek, while the species name, jubatus, means "maned" in Latin, a reference to the mane found in cheetah cubs.
The cheetah has unusually low genetic variability. This is accompanied by a very low sperm count, motility, and deformed flagella. Skin grafts between unrelated cheetahs illustrate the former point in that there is no rejection of the donor skin. It is thought that the species went through a prolonged period of inbreeding following a genetic bottleneck during the last ice age. This suggests that genetic monomorphism did not prevent the cheetah from flourishing across two continents for thousands of years.
The cheetah likely evolved in Africa during the Miocene epoch (26 million to 7.5 million years ago), before migrating to Asia. Recent research has placed the last common ancestor of all existing populations as living in Asia 11 million years ago, which may lead to revision and refinement of existing ideas about cheetah evolution.
The now-extinct species include: Acinonyx pardinensis (Pliocene epoch), much larger than the modern cheetah and found in Europe, India, and China; Acinonyx intermedius (mid-Pleistocene period), found over the same range. The extinct genus Miracinonyx was extremely cheetah-like, but recent DNA analysis has shown that Miracinonyx inexpectatus, Miracinonyx studeri, and Miracinonyx trumani (early to late Pleistocene epoch), found in North America and called the "North American cheetah" are not true cheetahs, instead being close relatives to the Cougar.
Although many sources list six or more subspecies of cheetah, the taxonomic status of most of these subspecies is unresolved. Acinonyx rex—the king cheetah (see below)—was abandoned as a subspecies after it was discovered that the variation was caused by a single recessive gene. The subspecies Acinonyx jubatus guttatus, the woolly cheetah, may also have been a variation due to a recessive gene. Some of the most commonly recognized subspecies include:
The cheetah's chest is deep and its waist is narrow. The coarse, short fur of the cheetah is tan with round black spots measuring from 2 to 3 cm (0.79 to 1.2 in) across, affording it some camouflage while hunting. There are no spots on its white underside, but the tail has spots, which merge to form four to six dark rings at the end. The tail usually ends in a bushy white tuft. The cheetah has a small head with high-set eyes. Black "tear marks" running from the corner of its eyes down the sides of the nose to its mouth keep sunlight out of its eyes and aid in hunting and seeing long distances. Although it can reach high speeds, its body cannot stand long distance running, because it is more suited to short bursts of speed.
The adult cheetah weighs from 35 to 72 kg (77 to 160 lb). Its total head-and-body length is from 110 to 150 cm (43 to 59 in), while the tail can measure 60 to 84 cm (24 to 33 in) in length. Cheetahs are 66 to 94 cm (26 to 37 in) tall at the shoulder. Males tend to be slightly larger than females and have slightly bigger heads, but there is not a great variation in cheetah sizes and it is difficult to tell males and females apart by appearance alone. Compared to a similarly sized leopard, the cheetah is generally shorter-bodied, but is longer tailed and taller (it averages about 90 cm (35 in) tall) and so it appears more streamlined.
Some cheetahs have a rare fur pattern mutation of larger, blotchy, merged spots. Known as "king cheetahs," they were once thought to constitute a separate subspecies but are in fact African cheetahs; their unusual fur pattern is the result of a single recessive gene. The "king cheetah" has only been seen in the wild a handful of times, but it has been bred in captivity.
The cheetah's paws have semi-retractable claws (known only in three other cat species: the fishing cat, the flat-headed cat and the Iriomote cat), offering extra grip in its high-speed pursuits. The ligament structure of the cheetah's claws is the same as those of other cats; it simply lacks the sheath of skin and fur present in other varieties, and therefore the claws are always visible, with the exception of the dewclaw. The dewclaw itself is much shorter and straighter than that of other cats.
Adaptations that enable the cheetah to run as fast as it does include large nostrils that allow for increased oxygen intake, and an enlarged heart and lungs that work together to circulate oxygen efficiently. During a typical chase, its respiratory rate increases from 60 to 150 breaths per minute. While running, in addition to having good traction due to its semi-retractable claws, the cheetah uses its tail as a rudder-like means of steering to allow it to make sharp turns, necessary to outflank prey animals that often make such turns to escape.
Unlike "true" big cats, the cheetah can purr as it inhales, but cannot roar. By contrast, the big cats can roar but cannot purr, except while exhaling. The cheetah is still considered by some to be the smallest of the big cats. While it is often mistaken for the leopard, the cheetah does have distinguishing features, such as the aforementioned long "tear-streak" lines that run from the corners of its eyes to its mouth, and spots that are not "rosettes". The thinner body frame of the cheetah is also very different from that of the leopard.
The cheetah is a vulnerable species. Of all the big cats, it is the least able to adapt to new environments. It has always proved difficult to breed in captivity, although recently a few zoos have managed to succeed at this. Once widely hunted for its fur, the cheetah now suffers more from the loss of both habitat and prey.
The cheetah was formerly considered to be particularly primitive among the cats and to have evolved approximately 18 million years ago. New research, however, suggests the last common ancestor of all 40 existing species of felines lived more recently than that—about 11 million years ago. The same research indicates the cheetah, while highly derived morphologically, is not of particularly ancient lineage, having separated from its closest living relatives (Puma concolor, the cougar, and Puma yaguarondi, the jaguarundi) around five million years ago. These felids have not changed appreciably since they first appeared in the fossil record.
The king cheetah is a rare mutation of cheetah characterized by a distinct fur pattern. It was first noted in what was then Southern Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe) in 1926. In 1927, the naturalist Reginald Innes Pocock declared it a separate species, but reversed this decision in 1939 due to lack of evidence, but in 1928, a skin purchased by Walter Rothschild was found to be intermediate in pattern between the king cheetah and spotted cheetah and Abel Chapman considered it to be a color form of the spotted cheetah. Twenty-two such skins were found between 1926 and 1974. Since 1927, the king cheetah was reported five more times in the wild. Although strangely marked skins had come from Africa, a live king cheetah was not photographed until 1974 in South Africa's Kruger National Park. Cryptozoologists Paul and Lena Bottriell photographed one during an expedition in 1975. They also managed to obtain stuffed specimens. It appeared larger than a spotted cheetah and its fur had a different texture. There was another wild sighting in 1986—the first in seven years. By 1987, thirty-eight specimens had been recorded, many from pelts.
Its species status was resolved in 1981 when king cheetahs were born at the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre in South Africa. In May 1981, two spotted sisters gave birth there and each litter contained one king cheetah. The sisters had both mated with a wild-caught male from the Transvaal area (where king cheetahs had been recorded). Further king cheetahs were later born at the Centre. It has been known to exist in Zimbabwe, Botswana and in the northern part of South Africa's Transvaal province. A recessive gene must be inherited from both parents for this pattern to appear, which is one reason why it is so rare.
Other color variations
Other rare color morphs of the species include speckles, melanism, albinism and gray coloration. Most have been reported in Indian cheetahs, particularly in captive specimens kept for hunting.
The Mughal Emperor of India, Jahangir, recorded having a white cheetah presented to him in 1608. In the memories of Tuzk-e-Jahangiri, the Emperor, says that in the third year of his reign, Raja Bir Singh Deo brought a white cheetah to show me. Although other sorts of creatures, both birds and beasts have white varieties .... I had never seen a white cheetah. Its spots, which are (usually) black, were of a blue colour, and the whiteness of the body also inclined to blue-ishness. This suggests a chinchilla mutation which restricts the amount of pigment on the hair shaft. Although the spots were formed of black pigment, the less dense pigmentation gives a hazy, grayish effect. As well as Jahangir's white cheetah at Agra, a report of "incipient albinism" has come from Beaufort West according to Guggisberg.
In a letter to "Nature in East Africa", H. F. Stoneham reported a melanistic cheetah (black with ghost markings) in the Trans-Nzoia District of Kenya in 1925. Vesey Fitzgerald saw a melanistic cheetah in Zambia in the company of a spotted cheetah. Red (erythristic) cheetahs have dark tawny spots on a golden background. Cream (isabelline) cheetahs have pale red spots on a pale background. Some desert region cheetahs are unusually pale; probably they are better-camouflaged and therefore better hunters and more likely to breed and pass on their paler coloration. Blue (Maltese or grey) cheetahs have variously been described as white cheetahs with grey-blue spots (chinchilla) or pale grey cheetahs with darker grey spots (Maltese mutation). A cheetah with hardly any spots was shot in Tanzania in 1921 (Pocock); it had only a few spots on the neck and back, and these were unusually small.
Range and habitat
There are several geographically isolated populations of cheetah, all of which are found in Africa or southwestern Asia. A small population (estimated at about fifty) survive in the Khorasan Province of Iran, where conservationists are taking steps to protect them. There have also been several unconfirmed reports of Asiatic Cheetahs in the Balochistan province of Pakistan, with at least one dead animal being discovered recently.
The cheetah thrives in areas with vast expanses of land where prey is abundant. The cheetah likes to live in an open biotope, such as semidesert, prairie, and thick brush, though it can be found in a variety of habitats. In Namibia, for example, it lives in grasslands, savannahs, areas of dense vegetation, and mountainous terrain.
In much of its former range, the cheetah was tamed by aristocrats and used to hunt antelopes in much the same way as is still done with members of the greyhound group of dogs.
Reproduction and behavior
Females reach maturity in twenty to twenty-four months, and males around twelve months (although they do not usually mate until at least three years old), and mating occurs throughout the year. A study of cheetahs in the Serengeti showed females are sexually promiscuous and often have cubs by many different males.
Females give birth to up to nine cubs after a gestation period of ninety to ninety-eight days, although the average litter size is three to five. Cubs weigh from 150 to 300 g (5.3 to 11 oz) at birth. Unlike some other cats, the cheetah is born with its characteristic spots. Cubs are also born with a downy underlying fur on their necks, called a mantle, extending to mid-back. This gives them a mane or Mohawk-type appearance; this fur is shed as the cheetah grows older. It has been speculated this mane gives a cheetah cub the appearance of the honey badger (ratel), to scare away potential aggressors. Cubs leave their mother between thirteen and twenty months after birth. Life span is up to twelve years in the wild, but up to twenty years in captivity.
Unlike males, females are solitary and tend to avoid each other, though some mother/daughter pairs have been known to be formed for small periods of time. The cheetah has a unique, well-structured social order. Females live alone, except when they are raising cubs and they raise their cubs on their own. The first eighteen months of a cub's life are important; cubs must learn many lessons, because survival depends on knowing how to hunt wild prey species and avoid other predators. At eighteen months, the mother leaves the cubs, who then form a sibling ("sib") group that will stay together for another six months. At about two years, the female siblings leave the group, and the young males remain together for life.
Males are often social and may group together for life, usually with their brothers in the same litter; although if a cub is the only male in the litter then two or three lone males may form a group, or a lone male may join an existing group. These groups are called coalitions. In one Serengeti, 41% of the adult males were solitary, 40% lived in pairs and 19% lived in trios.
A coalition is six times more likely to obtain an animal territory than a lone male, although studies have shown that coalitions keep their territories just as long as lone males— between four and four and a half years.
Males are territorial. Females' home ranges can be very large and a territory including several females' ranges is impossible to defend. Instead, males choose the points at which several of the females' home ranges overlap, creating a much smaller space, which can be properly defended against intruders while maximizing the chance of reproduction. Coalitions will try their best to maintain territories to find females with whom they will mate. The size of the territory also depends on the available resources; depending on the part of Africa, the size of a male's territory can vary greatly from 37 to 160 km2 (14 to 62 sq mi).
Males mark their territory by urinating on objects that stand out, such as trees, logs, or termite mounds. The whole coalition contributes to the scent. Males will attempt to kill any intruders, and fights result in serious injury or death.
Unlike males and other felines, females do not establish territories. Instead, the area they live in is termed a home range. These overlap with other females' home ranges, often those of their daughters, mothers, or sisters. Females always hunt alone, although cubs will accompany their mothers to learn to hunt once they reach the age of five to six weeks.
The size of a home range depends entirely on the availability of prey. Cheetahs in southern African woodlands have ranges as small as 34 km2 (13 sq mi), while in some parts of Namibia they can reach 1,500 km2 (580 sq mi).
The cheetah cannot roar, but does have the following vocalizations:
Diet and hunting
The cheetah is a carnivore, eating mostly mammals under 40 kg (88 lb), including the Thomson's gazelle, the Grant's gazelle, the springbok and the impala. The young of larger mammals such as wildebeests and zebras are taken at times, and adults too, when cheetahs hunt in groups. Guineafowl and hares are also prey. While the other big cats often hunt by night, the cheetah is a diurnal hunter. It hunts usually either early in the morning or later in the evening when it is not so hot, but there is still enough light.
The cheetah hunts by vision rather than by scent. Prey is stalked to within 10–30 m (33–98 ft), then chased. This is usually over in less than a minute, and if the cheetah fails to make a catch quickly, it will give up. The cheetah has an average hunting success rate of around 50%.
Running at speeds between 112 and 120 km/h (70 and 75 mph) puts a great deal of strain on the cheetah's body. When sprinting, the cheetah's body temperature quickly elevates. If it is a hard chase, it sometimes needs to rest for half an hour or more.
The cheetah kills its prey by tripping it during the chase, then biting it on the underside of the throat to suffocate it; the cheetah is not strong enough to break the necks of the four-legged prey it mainly hunts. The bite may also puncture a vital artery in the neck. Then the cheetah proceeds to devour its catch as quickly as possible before the kill is taken by stronger predators.
The diet of a cheetah is dependent upon the area in which it lives. For example, on the East African plains, its preferred prey is the Thomson's gazelle. This small antelope is shorter than the cheetah (about 53–67 cm (21–26 in) tall and 70–107 cm (28–42 in) long), and also cannot run faster than the cheetah (only up to 80 km/h (50 mph)), which combine to make it an appropriate prey. Cheetahs look for individuals which have strayed some distance from their group, and do not necessarily seek out old or weak ones.
Interspecific predatory relationships
Despite their speed and hunting prowess, cheetahs are largely outranked by other large predators in most of their range. Because they have evolved for short bursts of extreme speed at the expense of their power, they cannot defend themselves against most of Africa's other predator species. They usually avoid fighting and will surrender a kill immediately to even a single hyena, rather than risk injury. Because cheetahs rely on their speed to obtain their meals, any injury that slows them down could essentially be life threatening.
A cheetah has a 50% chance of losing its kill to other predators. Cheetahs avoid competition by hunting at different times of the day and by eating immediately after the kill. Due to the reduction in habitat in Africa, cheetahs in recent years have faced greater pressure from other native African predators as available range declines.
The cheetah's mortality is very high during the early weeks of its life; up to 90% of cheetah cubs are killed during this time by lions, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, or even by eagles. Cheetah cubs often hide in thick brush for safety. Mother cheetahs will defend their young and are at times successful in driving predators away from their cubs. Coalitions of male cheetahs can also chase away other predators, depending on the coalition size and the size and number of the predator. Because of its speed, a healthy adult cheetah has few enemies.
|Taipan||Apr 24 2012, 10:38 PM Post #2|
Acinonyx jubatus rex - King Cheetah
The King Cheetah is an extremely rare, regal and strikingly beautiful animal. At one time it was considered to be a separate subspecies. Main difference between King Cheetah and the normal standard spotted Cheetah is that its coat pattern differs distinctively. The standard Cheetah's coat is generally a yellow or golden color with a circular spotted pattern of small black markings. The King Cheetah has spots that run together to form several (usually three) black stripes down its back from the crest of its neck to the top of the tail. They also sport dark patch shaped markings, irregular in size and shape along their sides and flanks.
In 1926 a cat, originally thought to be a cheetah-leopard hybrid, was trapped near Salisbury in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The cat was found to resemble a Cheetah however the coat was not spotted but had long dark stripes down the middle of the back with dark patches on the flanks. Other animals of the same type were found and it was believed to represent a new species, the King Cheetah. It is widely believed now that these animals are merely an unusually marked variant of Cheetah and not a separate subspecies.
Cheetahs are classified in their own subfamily, Acinonyxchinae. Cheetahs have long legs and run down their prey rather than stalking it although they do seek cover to move as close as possible before the chase begins. They also have blunt non-retractable claws. Two subspecies are recognized, the African Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus jubatus and the Asian Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) . However, there is no clear visual difference between the subspecies. Reginald Innes Pocock, was convinced that it was a new species and in 1927 named it Acinonyx rex...but the animal was only to be sighted five more times between then and 1974 when one was finally photographed in South Africa's Kruger National Park.
King Cheetah's are extremely rare with a world population under 30 animals with only 10 of those believed to be in the wild in a few remote areas of Zimbabwe and Southern Africa. The DeWildt Cheetah Centre in Pretoria, South Africa is largely responsible for their preservation and present day population. The DeWildt Research Centre started their "King Cheetah" breeding in the early 1980's where many questions were answered when King Cheetahs were born as a result of pairing normal Cheetahs at the DeWildt center. Often times the King Cheetah is referred to as a "DeWildt Cheetah" which is certainly a fine tribute to their diligent efforts to preserve and protect this animal from extinction.
|Taipan||Apr 24 2012, 10:38 PM Post #3|
The cheetah's flexible spine, oversized liver, enlarged heart, wide nostrils, increased lungcapacity, and thin muscular body make this cat the swiftest hunter in Africa. Covering 7-8 meters in a stride, with only one foot touching the ground at a time, the cheetah can reach a speed of 110 km/h in seconds. At two points in the stride, no feet touch the ground.
Cheetahs have a unique, well-structured social order. Females live alone except when they are raising cubs. The females raise the cubs on their own. The first 18 months of a cub's life cubs learn survival lessons on knowing how to hunt wild prey species and avoid other predators such as the leopards, lions, hyenas, and baboons. At 18 months, the mother leaves the cubs, which then form a sibling group, staying together for another 6 months. At about 2 years, the female siblings leave the group, and the young males remain together for life. Males live alone or in coalitions made up of brothers from the same litter. Some coalitions maintain territories in order to find females with which they will mate. Fierce fights between male coalitions, resulting in serious injury or death, can occur when defending territories. Cheetahs hunt in the late morning and early evening. They capture their prey by stalking - until the prey is within 10-30 meters - before chasing. The prey is suffocated when a cheetah bites the underside of the throat. Chases last about 20 seconds, and rarely longer then 1 minute. About half of the chases are successful. In Namibia, cheetahs use play-trees (trees with sloping trunks and large horizontal limbs, usually camelthorns) to observe their surroundings and mark the area. Cheetahs make chirping sounds and hiss or spit when angered or threatened. They purr very loudly when content. Cheetahs do not pose a threat to humans.
Studies have not been conducted in the wild on longevity; 8-12 years is average in captivity. Cub mortality is high for the species in both the wild and captivity. On average 30 percent of all cubs born in captivity die within one month of birth, and in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, about 90 percent die before reaching 3 months of age.
Cheetah relatives had worldwide distribution until about 20,000 years ago, but the world’s environment underwent drastic changes in the Great Ice Age. Throughout North America, Europe and Asia, about 75 percent of the mammal species vanished. Only a handful of the modern cheetah remained, having gone through a “bottleneck”, and inbreeding occurred for the species’ survival. In c1700 BC the Egyptians were the first to tame the cheetahs and cheetahs have been kept in captivity for some 5,000 years. However, they breed poorly in captivity. The many parks and reserves of Africa offer protection for only a small amount of cheetahs. In these parks, lion and hyena numbers increase, and the cheetahs cannot compete with these large predators which kill cheetah cubs and steal their prey. Evolution has favoured speed and not strength for this species. Therefore, most of the cheetah population is found outside of protected reserves.
(Slow Motion) footage of cheetah chasing down a gazelle :
|Taipan||Apr 24 2012, 10:39 PM Post #4|
Woman killed by cheetah in Belgian zoo
February 13, 2007 - 10:47AM
A 37-year-old woman has been killed by a cheetah after sneaking into its cage, an official at the zoo in northern Belgium said.
The woman, a regular visitor from Antwerp, was thought to have hidden in the grounds of the Olmen zoo and entered the cage after other visitors left on Sunday evening, local police told the Belga news agency.
The woman was a so-called "godmother" to the cheetah under a program at the family-run zoo that allowed regular visitors to participate in the care of animals in the presence of zoo-keepers.
Despite the incident, the zoo said that its security was sufficient and that the cheetah would not be destroyed.
However, zoo spokesman Jan Libot said that visitors would "no longer be allowed in the future to take pictures near small predators or feed animals."
A Belgian animal defence group Gaia called on authorities to close the zoo.
"For years, the park has given visitors the impression that wild animals are harmless," spokeswoman Ann De Greef said.
In response, the zoo official said that it "respected animal security and well-being as well as the law".
The cheetah is one of the main attactions of the zoo, which also includes hippopotamuses, monkeys, lions and, since recently, white tigers
Woman killed by cheetah in Belgian zoo.
|Taipan||Apr 24 2012, 10:40 PM Post #5|
Cheetah Male Attacks Female with Cubs
Date: Sunday, June 17, 2001
We received a superb series of slides by Prof Gert Lamprecht of Bloemfontein on the behaviour of two cheetah males towards a female and her two cubs.
The two cheetah males were seen at a watering hole in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. One of the males made a sudden dash for a female cheetah and her two cubs. The mother shielded her cubs with her back and when the male made a lunge for her cubs she retaliated and fought him off.
The second male had by then approached the female who first squatted and then laid down, the cubs once again shielded by her. The two males then moved off for a drink of water. Then the two males again stalked the female that had tried to move further away in the meantime with her cubs.
Our viewer could not stay to see how this interaction ended. This is going to take some guesswork.
Firstly, let’s look at the established facts of male and female cheetah interaction. Except for when they have cubs or when they are tending adolescent offspring, the females are always solitary. Adult females are exceptionally intolerant of other cheetah intruders. Male cheetahs wonder about, either on their own or in a coalition with other males. When they find a female in oestrus the males in the coalition might squabble amongst each other and will definitely fight other males.
The males would be aggressive towards a female in oestrus, knocking her over, slapping at her and even biting the flanks or hind quarters.
Is this what our viewer witnessed? Was this contact between males and an oestrus female? It can’t be! The cubs are too young. The interval between birth and conception is 18 months and it would have been some time before the female would be a source of attraction for the males.
Reference books emphasise that females would act defensively, if not aggressively if they have dependent cubs, but there is no mention that transient males would seek conflict with a female.
Ann van Dyk recounts in her book The Cheetahs of De Wildt how males would bully females without them being in oestrus. Her observations are based on the cheetah kept under captive circumstances. When asked if she was aware of such contacts in nature, she said more and more such anecdotal evidence is reaching her ears. She herself has never witnessed it in nature.
She interprets it as a casual contact during which the two males, most probably still young ones, used or rather abused the opportunity to prove their metal and show just who is boss. They are, says Ann, like teenagers pumped full of testosterone.
Ann says that in the cheetah breeding programme at De Wildt, they deliberately avoid using cheetah males under the age of five because of the aggression shown towards females by the younger ones. Only when the males are sexually mature and their behaviour is not dictated by surging hormones are they then introduced to the females.
|Taipan||Apr 24 2012, 10:40 PM Post #6|
Cheetahs Suffering More Fatal Crashes During Chases, Experts Say
Leon Marshall in Johannesburg, South Africa
for National Geographic News
June 20, 2006
Cheetahs are world's fastest land animals, able to top 60 miles an hour (100 kilometers an hour).
But their speed, along with their tendency to fixate on their prey while giving chase, can prove fatal.
Cheetahs can be oblivious to hazards such as thorns and broken branches that hide in African grasslands. And headlong crashes can cause blindness or death.
Recent reported cheetah deaths suggest that some of the cats had their stomachs ripped open by hidden branches.
This has prompted the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre, a cheetah rehabilitation and breeding facility outside Pretoria, South Africa, to monitor the situation.
Vannessa Bouwer, the center's deputy director, says there is a growing suspicion that such injuries are more common than first suspected.
"We couldn't say for sure before. Because the injuries turn out mostly to be fatal, the victim simply disappeared," she said.
Now the center uses radio collars to track cheetahs placed on game reserves.
As a result, Bouwer says, "we are able to find them and more or less establish the cause of death."
Cheetahs: Grassland Hunters
Experts have known for some time that cheetahs are particularly prone to eye injuries from thorns and spikes.
Bouwer says the De Wildt center recently saw such a case.
"Fortunately we were able to dart the animal [with a tranquilizer] and remove the thorn without damage to its sight," she said.
Researchers attribute the growing number of cheetah injuries mostly to an increase in big cats hunting on foreign terrain.
The cats normally hunt on grassland, but the reserves in which many cheetahs are placed are mostly bushy. Denser, shrubby ecosystems are also encroaching on grasslands in many areas.
Observers have reported the most eye and facial injuries to cheetahs in Namibia, South Africa's northwestern neighbor.
Veterinarians there have been called in to study the problem.
Bonny Schumann, research assistant at the Namibia-based Cheetah Conservation Fund, blames the high accident rate on bushy terrain.
"Cheetah are basically grassland hunters," Schumann said. "But over recent years the habitat has changed considerably to thorny acacia tree types."
She says heavier rains and cattle farming have encouraged shrubs and trees to encroach on grassland areas.
"Cheetah … seem to have adapted well to the changing habitat. Still it has become noticeable how many sustain eye injuries."
Henk Bertshinger heads the wildlife studies program for the veterinary science faculty at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
He doesn't think cheetah injury rates are unusual—particularly for predators that run as fast as many of us drive.
"It is just their daily hazard of being a wildlife species, the way a lion risks getting its stomach ripped open by a horn or its jaw broken by the hoof of a buffalo it is trying to bring down."
"It is a problem for [cheetahs], but I don't think it impacts on their survival," he said.
A co-owner of Makulu Makete, a private game reserve in northern South Africa, says she recently observed the accidental death of one of the reserves two introduced cheetahs.
Writing in her reserve's newsletter, Jane Chidgey says she followed the source of a static radio-collar signal and spotted Dottie, a female cheetah.
"Dottie raised her head out of the grass, then stood up and took a few steps before flopping down," she wrote.
"To our horror we saw that she was badly injured, with her intestines hanging out from a wound under her belly."
The cheetah died, but her four cubs were found and have been sent to the De Wildt center.
Photographer and businessperson Howard Buffett, the son of U.S. billionaire investor Warren Buffett, photographed a similar accident.
The pictures and description of the incidents appear in a book Spots Before Your Eyes, which Buffett co-authored with De Wildt's founder, Ann van Dyk.
Buffett describes a fatal accident experienced by a female cheetah chasing an impala ram at about 50 miles an hour (80 kilometers an hour) on a South African reserve.
"The [cheetah], during the chase, clears a short log and does not compensate for two broken branches. The rigid branches split the cheetah's sides as if a hunter has gutted her. She emerges with flesh and guts almost dragging on the ground," he wrote.
That cheetah died, but its cubs were also found and delivered to De Wildt.
|Taipan||Apr 24 2012, 10:41 PM Post #7|
Study: Cheetahs not monogamous
LONDON, May 30 (UPI) -- A British study found that female cheetahs in Tanzania are prone to infidelity -- having cubs with several different fathers.
Although the practice is rare among other big cats, the researchers said DNA analysis of the speedy cats found that nearly half of the litters analyzed contained cubs from multiple different fathers, the BBC reported Wednesday.
The researchers said the infidelity could expose the animals to disease but it could also help the endangered species ensure genetic diversity.
"If the cubs are genetically more variable it may allow them to adapt and evolve to different circumstances," said one of the scientists involved in the study, Dada Gottelli of the Zoological Society of London.
"If there is a big change in the environment some may be able to cope better."
The scientists studied 176 cheetahs for about nine years and found that of the 47 litters of cubs born in that time, 43 percent contained cubs from different fathers.
"If anything, this is an underestimate," Gotelli said. "Cheetah cubs suffer high mortality in the first few weeks so it was difficult to get samples from all of them."
Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.
|Taipan||Apr 24 2012, 10:42 PM Post #8|
Cheetahs & their important dew (hunting) claw.
Unlike other large predators such as the wolf or the spotted hyena, which essentially kill
their prey by pulling it down and eating it while still alive, cats in general tend to dispatch their
chosen victims first, before they start to consume it. In cats, large claws and powerfully
developed anterior limbs are ideally suited to catch prey and retaining a hold while wrestling
it into a position where the canines may be employed in a bite (TURNER & ANTÓN, 1996).
Canids lack retractile claws and their canines are less developed, so that sheer weight of
numbers is often the most important element in bringing down prey.
The precise hunting technique, which includes the method of capture and dispatch,
depends on the size of the cat, its overall morphology and the size and type of prey.
Moreover, the mode of hunting also depends upon the social structures observed in various
felids, meaning if they hunt in prides or rather solitary.
It is generally noticed that especially in cats, a strong interaction of innate and learned
patterns of behavior is of great importance. Cats develop an early interest in chasing
anything that moves, and will go through an elaborate sequence of crouching, wriggling the
hind-quarters, and pouncing (TURNER & ANTÓN, 1996). However, what they seem less
secure about is what to do with the object once they have seized it, although the neck region
appears to be sought instinctively. Female cats have been observed of bringing live prey for
their kittens to practice capture and killing. In addition, at a certain age the young offspring
will join their mother in hunting, this way they get to learn what prey to take and how it is
supposed to be killed.
For modern pantherine cats, smaller prey is killed by a bite at the rear of the neck, thereby
the upper canines drive between the vertebrae and severe the spinal cord (LEYHAUSEN,
1965; SCHALLER, 1967 & 1972; GONYEA, 1976). Larger animals like ungulates require
different approaches. They developed posteriorly directed horns along with an increase in
length of the cervical spines, which possibly evolved, in part, for protection against predators.
Prey animal of large size are rarely knocked over by the impact of the predators body;
instead during the pounce, the hind feet of the felid usually do not leave the ground. The
prey is seized and the predator pulls the prey towards itself. In this manner, as the victim is
pulled down, the predator is able to maintain contact with the prey, and in doing so controls
the victim’s movements (LEYHAUSEN 1965b; SCHALLER, 1967 & 1972; KLEIMANN &
Prey is usually grabbed by the throat or the muzzle with a strong bite, at which it is aided by
its long retractile claws and powerful front legs (see Figure 7.1 and 7.2). Death results
mostly from suffocation rather than a violent and bloody end (TURNER & ANTÓN, 1996). This
technique may be used to avoid the pointed horns that protect the nape of the neck in many
ungulate prey species (GONYEA, 1976).
The cheetah on the other hand is forced to employ a different hunting method, because its
claws can’t be used as a grasping device, and its body proportions are that of a sprinter, lean
and long. However, like many of the other cats it is perfectly adept at the stalk to bring itself
closer to its prey. The final rush takes the form of a high speed chase, often over several
hundred meters, during which the twists and turns of the usually small prey are relentlessly
followed. The capture is achieved at high speed, normally not by a leap onto the back of the
animal but by clawing at one side of the rear of the prey and pulling backward in a complex
and carefully coordinated maneuver. This causes the prey to lose balance and collapse, and
usually results in its tumbling over. The large dewclaw on the inside of the cheetah’s front
paw is employed in this technique, in effect “hooking” the back leg of the unfortunate animal.
Finally, it will be seized by the throat and strangled (NOWAK, 1991).
Source - KILLING BEHAVIOR IN SMILODON FATALIS (MAMMALIA, CARNIVORA, FELIDAE) BASED ON FUNCTIONAL ANATOMY AND BODY PROPORTIONS OF THE FRONT- AND HIND LIMBS - JENS-UWE SCHMIEDER, JULY 2000.[/size]
|Taipan||Apr 24 2012, 10:45 PM Post #9|
Cheetah Coalition Hunts Wildebeest
Date: Sunday, September 24, 2006
Producer: Ronnie Watt
As in this case. A coalition of three cheetahs has attacked a sub-adult wildebeest and not even their combined weight can bring it down immediately. One cheetah precariously straddles the neck, wedged behind the wildebeest’s horns - a risky place to be! Another has lunged for the throat and risks being trampled while the third harries the prey elsewhere. None of this makes the wildebeest go down and the struggle is tapping the energy of the cats.
One cheetah lets go and scouts the area - it is nervous. The wildebeest herd approach to assist the youngster in distress and the cat gives chase.
With only two of the cheetahs grappling with the wildebeest and the prey’s stubborn refusal to submit, the chances of a kill increasingly appears remote. But the third cat re-appears and manages to hook a rear leg and trips the wildebeest onto its side. One cheetah keeps the prey down while the other strengthens the grip on the windpipe. The cheetah’s canines are small and do not penetrate deep, but the grip is vice-like and death is inevitable through suffocation.
With the prey dead, two of the cheetahs wander off. The third one tries to drag it closer to cover but it is far too heavy a burden. All three cats are then seen in cover and once again they are nervous - vultures have spotted the kill and are closing in and this could attract other predators. Cheetahs will make way for lions and will easily surrenders their kills to hyenas. But no predators appear and two of the cheetahs join forces to drag the wildebeest carcass out of sight.
This scene was recorded by Tony Ferri of Nelspruit in the Kruger National Park. The size of the wildebeest prey is larger than usual. Cheetahs have a limited range of prey ranging from steenbok and young giraffe to very young wildebeest calves. More than 80 percent of the kills in our sub-region are duiker, steenbok, impala, reedbuck and nyala.
Cheetah males in coalitions usually work together to herd and isolate prey but they usually attack singly. They do assist one another to pull down larger catches when collective strength is required but generally speaking, the risks and energy expenditure are not justified.
The cheetah has a valuable tool to bring down prey - the dewclaws which are situated high on the forepaw. These are sharply curved and by hooking a dewclaw into the flank or back of prey and then yanking backwards, the prey can be brought down.
Usually a cheetah will grapple for no more than 4 or 5 minutes before the prey succumbs. But here the struggle was a prolonged affair. And for most of that time, the three cats were at serious risk of being injured. They were either desperate for food or they spotted a weakness, possibly an injury to the calf.
Cheetahs and Ostrich
Date: Sunday, October 21, 2001
Lin Kimberley’s video deserves to be shared because it shows a cheetah (jagluiperd) hunting an ostrich (volstruis)! Ostrich prey has been recorded as uncommon for cheetah, but to actually witness such a kill is rare.
This is Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and a female cheetah is noticed stalking something. One step at a time she moves closer and she focuses an ostrich about 200 meters away. With no cover left she launches herself into a sprint across the flat open plains.
The cheetah’s maximum speed is 112 kilometers per hour!
The ostrich tries to escape but evidently had an injured foot and the cheetah manages to bring it down quickly.
Our viewer then drove closer to the scene. The female still has the ostrich pinned to the ground. Presumably she has the neck clamped in her jaws and is using her body weight to hinder movement.
A second cheetah approaches and hovers about, and then a third cheetah ambles closer - both are presumably her cubs.
The ostrich still tries to get away, kicking with its dangerous claw. One of the cubs dashes in and grabs the thigh and then lies on the leg - getting knocked around a bit. Eventually the mother stands up and drops the now lifeless neck.
The cheetah’s principal prey is any medium-sized or small bovid or their young, ground-living birds and small mammals including guinea fowl, bustards, hares and porcupines. Because its canines are short, the cheetah has to apply pressure to the windpipe to suffocate the prey rather than killing by a forceful bite.
The video does not illustrate this so distinctly, but you can gather that the ostrich is quite helpless and can merely spread and flap its wings half-heartedly, its powerful legs and deadly feet ineffective as it lies pinned down.
In her book, the naturalist Nan Wrogeman recounts a report that she heard of a cheetah hunting an ostrich. There are also drawings in the book to illustrate what happened.
The cheetah chased a running ostrich and when it was within range, it flung itself onto the side of the bird, holding on to one of the wings which the ostrich holds open while in flight. In this instance, the bird was not brought to the ground immediately and it dragged the cheetah for some 100 meters. At last the cheetah toppled it to the ground and clamped its jaws over the windpipe. After some time, the ostrich succumbed.
You might wonder why the other two cubs did not join with more enthusiasm in the kill. Well, the youngsters will let the mother do the stalking and catching - learning by watching her. Only when they are ready to be kicked out of the mother's territory will they start taking a leading role in catching larger prey.
Females are mostly solitary and has to fend for her young on her own whilst males often form a coalition of two or three to make hunting easier.
Coalition and the Zebra
Yesterday evening we were following a coalition of 3 male cheetah down the road when suddenly they crouched down, noticing some zebra we stopped and watched. What happened next transpired so fast, the zebra ran the cheetah ran and I drove. We turned a bend just in time to see 2 of the cheetah lunging at a fully grown stallion - we realised very soon that the stallion must have been trying to help the foal that the 3rd cheetah had on the ground. We all know that cheetah can run fast, but seeing them in action is truly amazing. We watched for a while while the cheetah fed. After a drinks stop, we returned to find the entire zebra herd, not more than 5 meters from the feeding cheetah. One by one the zebras came forward, looked at the foal and then moved off. A strange sight bringing up lots of questions about animal behaviour. Why would the zebra return?
Cheetahs on the Serengeti
(The comments attached to the photos are not mine but obviously the Photographers).
Lions were at the top of my most-desired list for this trip but cheetahs were a close second. We didn't see any at the first two parks but our first afternoon at the NCA - Serengeti border we photographed one on a gazelle kill and the next morning we found two males hunting together as they flushed a hare and caught it. We also photographed two cheetahs on a zebra foal kill in late evening light. Cheetahs surrender kills to lions or hyenas so they eat as fast as possible before the bullies arrive and you can park your 4x4 very close to them without bother.
The shots below are from our best cheetah sighting, a pair of cheetahs running down a wildebeest. These two males were the dominant cheetahs in this area and researchers said they had killed three other males the past months. We found them in the shade around 10 AM, an hour past good light and two-plus hours past the "sweet light" of early morn, but you learn to make do with what's available.
This is one of the pair of dominant males, shown yawning in the shade shortly before stalking a herd of wildebeests
This image was taken when one of them rose while still in the shade ... I simply overexposed the background to get enough light on the cat, and I like this effect even though it breaks several "rules" of photography.
Moments after I took the above photo both cheetahs stretched and strolled away from their shade tree ... and then they saw a small herd of wildebeests a few hundred yards away and checked them out carefully (photo below). I would have bet against them tackling such a large prey animal since there were many Thompson's and Grants gazelles in view and these smaller antelope are perfect size for cheetahs, but it was clear these guys were ambitious.
They carefully stalked to within 120 yards of the wildebeests, who seemed nervously aware of the cats but not spooked enough to flee. Our driver pulled up parallel to the wildebeests, leaving the cats behind, because that's where the final action was most likely to occur if they actually made a kill. We were probably 200-250 yards from the wildebeests, far enough away that we could watch without affecting the drama.
And so we waited ... 10 minutes and one jeep left ... 10 more minutes and a couple more jeeps left ... we toyed with the idea of leaving but I think everyone in our jeep was committed to missing lunch if need be ... after an hour of waiting in the hot sun and harsh light we were down to three jeeps, all from our photo tour group, and were wondering if the ones who left earlier might not be the smart ones.
And then suddenly the lead cheetah's head popped up and he crept 10 yards closer ... "He's up!" I told the guys in our van ... I thought he needed to get much closer to make a rush but he sprung out of his crouch like an arrow shot from a bow and streaked towards the herd. Cheetahs have been clocked at speeds up to 70 MPH (over 100 feet/sec) and he was on the chosen wildebeest real quick ... the two shots below are crops since this occurred far away from our jeep, and the dust is killing the contrast and auto-focus, but it gives a sense of the attack. When we saw a large ball of dust we assumed the cheetah had knocked the wildebeest down and we drove over quickly.
At the kill site the lead cheetah had a death grip on the yearling wildebeest's throat. The head was twisted 180 degrees but the wildebeest was still kicking vigorously when the second cheetah grabbed a hind leg and pulled, immobilizing the gnu. The second cheetah began to eat as soon as the gnu quit kicking but the first cheetah held the throat grip for almost four minutes until the wildebeest was well and truly dead. Then he stood behind the eating cheetah, watching for signs of lions or hyenas as the other one ate. He was panting hard, as if exhausted by the chase and kill.
Once the second cheetah had eaten his fill he stood and moved back so the one who had grabbed the throat could eat. The shot below shows the cheetah that ate first scanning the horizon for signs of lions and hyenas, breathing heavily. What an incredible display of prowess on the part of this pair of cats. We were very glad we waited it out.
When we first saw these cheetahs they were walking to our left like in the second photo from the top on this web page, and someone remarked how beautiful and unmarked their coats were. But when they turned to the right we could see this ugly open gash on the hindquarters of the cheetah who has the neck grip on the wildebeest. Cheetahs are attacked by lions and hyenas and by other cheetahs, but this wound looks to me like it was caused by the horn of a prey animal, judging by the thickness of the gouge on the fur above the open wound. If it becomes infected or if the cheetah has even a slight limp from the wound and slows down half a step he will likely die an early death, but this one was still agile and fast enough to run down a hare and strong enough to choke a wildebeest so hopefully he can avoid infection and continue to thrive.
We saw six different cheetahs at the Serengeti. The two dominant males shown killing a wildebeest were seen on three different days and the other four were only seen once each.
The first two photos show a female that was rolling on the grass and acting like a domestic cat before strolling across the boundary with the National Park and leaving us.
This one has killed a Thomson's gazelle and is eating quickly while scanning the horizon for hyenas or lions, which will take the kill from him if given a chance. We could ID him as a separate cheetah from the other males because of the scar on his left front shoulder.
This is one of two young cheetahs that killed a zebra foal late in the afternoon and were wolfing it down quickly. All the other cheetahs we saw were on open plains but these two had killed near a stream bed in a wooded area and have to be very alert for hyenas and lions, which will kill them if given a chance. A cheetah can easily outrun a lion or hyena but in this wooded area they can't see very far so they had to be alert for an ambush. These were the two most nervous cheetahs we saw.
|Taipan||Apr 24 2012, 10:46 PM Post #10|
The first ever cheetah born in Mountain Zebra National Park
March 2008. Park rangers first spotted four cubs, along with their two-year old mother, in the Kranskop area of the Mountain Zebra National Park. These cubs were estimated to be about 6 weeks old. Amazingly, several days later, the rangers spotted that another four cubs, about 4 weeks old, had been born to the other female cheetah in the Park.
Reintroduced into Mountain Zebra National Park in 2007
Two male and two female cheetah were released into the Park last year, becoming the first large predators to inhabit the Park since its proclamation in 1937 and fulfilling an important function in restoring the predator-prey balance, as well as enriching the biodiversity of the Park.
The female cheetahs are sisters and just two years old, a young age for cheetahs to give birth. In an area supporting a larger population of cheetah, the breeding of young females such as these would have been suppressed by older females. Female cheetahs disperse after leaving their mothers, taking between one and one and a half years to settle in to new territories before breeding.
No Competing Predators
Although cheetah cubs do not generally have a very good survival rate, it is expected that most, if not all, of the Park’s cubs will survive as they do not face a threat from other large predators. The two new litters of cubs may have been fathered by both of the two male cheetahs in the Park as both males in a coalition usually mate with the female cheetah. According to recent research conducted in the other African national parks, individual cubs in a single cheetah litter may even be fathered by unrelated males in a coalition.
Male Cheetahs Chosen for their Genes
The male cheetahs in Mountain Zebra National Park were sourced from the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust, who relocated them from the north western Kalahari area. Males are specifically chosen from different geographical locations to ensure that they are unrelated and hence provide a larger gene pool. Before relocation to the Park, the males were bonded into a coalition by slowly introducing them to each other over many months, first in adjoining camps and then in the same camp. Male coalition members bond for life.
Cheetah in Mountain Zebra National Park are monitored by means of radio tracking to enable rangers and researchers to study their patterns of movement and ensure that they acclimatise well to their new home. Research focuses on the prey selection, habitat selection and feeding patterns of the cheetah, as well as the change in vigilance and behaviour of the antelope species they target.
Listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN’s Red Data List, cheetah in national parks are managed as part of a metapopulation to ensure that genetic diversity is maximized, leading to a more robust population.
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