ANIMAL FACTS - Cheetahs
Once widely distributed throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, the cheetah can now only be found scattered in various countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and a small population in Iran.
Cheetah are not classed as 'big cats'. Big cats have the ability to roar - cheetahs have instead retained the ability to purr, just like your domestic cat at home.
The cheetah has a slender, elongated body supported on tall, thin legs with blunt semi-retractable claws and a flattened rudder-like tail that measures half of the cheetah's head and body length. Black "tear marks" run down the face from the corner of the eyes down to the mouth. It is believed that the "tear marks" aid in hunting by helping to keep the sun out of the eyes. The coat colour is tan with evenly spaced black spots. The coat is coarse and short. Adult body length 112-135cm; tail length 66-84cm; shoulder height 73-90cm; weight 34-65kg.
Cheetahs prefer vast areas of open country, such as grassy plains or savannahs, although they can survive in a variety of different habitats including open woodlands, semi-desert, sandy plains, dense vegetation, and mountainous terrain.
Cheetahs are diurnal meaning they are active during the day. Cheetahs usually hunt in the late morning and early evening. They capture their prey by stalking until the prey is within 10-30 metres before initiating the chase. Because cheetahs store heat internally they will only chase over very short distances before they must stop and cool down. Chases usually last around 20 seconds and no longer than 1 minute. About half of all chases are successful. Cheetahs use a bite to the throat in order to suffocate their prey. Their diet consists of Thomson's and Grant's gazelles, springbok, reedbuck, waterbuck, kudu, steenbok, duiker, warthog, hare, game birds, and wildebeest. Because of their relatively small size in comparison to other large predators in Africa, cheetahs commonly lose 10-50% of their kills to lions, hyaenas and leopards. Cheetahs are well adapted to living in arid environments and are not obligate drinkers. They appear to be able to satisfy their moisture requirements from their prey's blood and urine or by eating tsama melons.
Cheetah breed once a year. The female raises the cubs ranging from 2-8 (but usually 3 or 4) herself. They will stay with her for up to two years.
The primary threat to the cheetah is loss of habitat due to human settlement and agriculture. Decline in prey, poaching, and indiscriminate trapping and shooting as a livestock predator also threaten the survival of the cheetah throughout its range. As a protected species in Namibia, people are allowed to remove cheetahs only if they pose a threat to livestock or human life. Unfortunately, some farmers will capture cheetahs indiscriminantly, often removing or killing those that have not taken any livestock. In North Africa and Iran, severe depletion of the prey base has brought cheetahs to near extinction.
Once widely distributed throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, the cheetah can now only be found scattered in various countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and a small population in Iran. The major strongholds of the cheetah are in eastern and southern Africa, primarily Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia.
Only 10,000 cheetahs remain in 25 African countries and a further 100 cheetahs survive in Iran. The largest population of cheetahs occurs in Namibia where 95 percent of wild cheetahs live on commercial farms.
Age: 14 Years (DOB 19/5/2004)
Weight: 44kg (96.8lbs)
Foxtrot or Foxy as he is known by his handlers, was born at the Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre in South Africa and arrived at Australia Zoo at six months of age with his brother Echo. He is very affectionate and enjoys constant attention. He is often found snoozing next to Echo and grooming his handlers under the shade of a tree. Foxy is always very gentle with everything he does.
At times he can be our most nervous cheetah, often relying on Echo or his handlers for comfort and moral support. Sometimes things can be a bit overwhelming for poor old Foxy. He has a definite phobia of Bush Turkeys ever since the day he opened his eyes from an afternoon nap to see two of them having a territorial fight right in front of him.
Walks around the zoo are an exciting part of Foxy's day. He enjoys taking a leisurely stroll around the zoo, but as soon as he catches sight of the elephants, the walk comes to a sudden halt. Foxy loves to sit and stare at the elephants. If the handlers try to move him on he will occasionally stamp his feet and squeal in protest. If it were up to Foxy he would spend all day watching the elephants.
Age: 7 Years (DOB 5/5/2011)
Josh was born at the Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre in South Africa and arrived at Australia Zoo in 2013 at 8 months of age with his best friend William.
Josh is now our biggest cat and usually weighs in at around 55kg with a very tall, long but slender build. His tear lines are quite narrow and have a small break at the top of his mouth.
Josh acts big and tough but actually has a very sweet personality and appears to enjoy affection and attention from his keepers. And really, despite his tough exterior, Josh can be a bit of a scaredy cat at times.
Exploring the Africa section of the zoo is a lot of fun for Josh. He loves his walks and we use these outings as a good opportunity to keep our boys well socialized and conditioned. It's fantastic to be able to walk our cheetahs through such a natural setting and all of our cats love to lie in a shady spot and watch all the animals in the Africa savannah.
Training is progressing really well and Josh is very clever and therefore a very fast learner. Next time you're at the zoo, keep an eye out for this little cutie!
Age: 2 Years (DOB 26/11/2016)
Lawrence was born at Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, where his mother did not take to him. Luckily, the team here at Australia Zoo was able to step in and hand-raise him!
Lawrence is a cheeky little man with boundless energy and an adventurous personality - he loves exploring new places and checking out his surroundings. His favourite toy is a cuddly whale which he'll carry around proudly. He plays regularly with his keepers and he loves chasing a football with them!
Lawrence is an ambassador for his wild cousins found on the plains of Africa. By seeing and spending time with Lawrence, people fall in love with him and this endangered species out in the wild.
Our keepers have fallen in love with Lawrence, and I'm sure you will too!
Age: 7 Years (DOB 6/6/2011)
William was born at the Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre in South Africa and arrived at Australia Zoo at 8 months of age with his friend Josh. Whilst these 2 boys aren’t brothers, they have been hand raised together and have a very close bond with each other.
William is easy to spot! He is a very handsome young cheetah that displays a lovely thick fluffy coat. All that fur definitely makes him look much bigger than Josh, yet they weigh about the same. His tear lines are thick and unbroken.
William is by far our most mischievous and inquisitive cheetah here at the Zoo. He is constantly on the go and always on the lookout for something or someone new to play with. This cheeky boy is very brave and always curious of new people and new surroundings. He is always the first one to venture into new areas and is constantly trying to get himself into trouble. There is no tree too tall and no mound too big for William.
When it comes to play time William is quite cheeky and definitely keeps everyone on their toes with his antics. He loves to play and wrestle with Josh (all in the name of fun, of course). From a training perspective, William is a very food motivated cat and this makes him easy to train as he is always keen to earn some treats.