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: 13 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: 6 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: 0 Years (DOB 26/11/2016)
Lawrence was born at Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo on 26/11/2016. Unfortunately Lawrence's mother rejected him and he therefore needed to be hand-raised - that's where Australia Zoo came in!
We have an ambassador programme with our cheetah and are able to get them up close and personal with our guests, thereby hopefully creating empathy and a passion for cheetah and for wildlife in general. Lawrence fits into our program perfectly and is already reaching a large audience and helping to educate them about cheetah and their plight in the wild.
Lawrence is a cheeky little man, confident and into everything. He can sometimes be a little unsure with new things but once he has checked them out, he is really keen to investigate them. His favourite toy by far is a cuddly koala toy, he goes nuts for it!
Lawrence is growing quickly - in weight, stature and cuteness - and it won't be long before Lawrence catches up with our big boys - the heaviest of which weighs in at 55 kg.
Our keepers have fallen in love with Lawrence, and I'm sure you will too!
Age: 12 Years (DOB 11/9/2004)
Weight: 38kg (83.6lbs)
Sheeba was born at Monarto Zoo in South Australia and arrived at Australia Zoo when she was three months old.
Sheeba is a beautiful cheetah, both in looks and personality. She has dark eyes, a thick coat, and unbroken tear marks. She absolutely loves her food! She will try to eat absolutely anything and wolfs her food down, sometimes without stopping to chew. Once she is full, she will lie on her side, showing off her big, full belly, and give a huge sigh of satisfaction before drifting off to sleep. When she was younger, Sheeba even fell asleep whilst chewing on a bone.
When Sheeba first arrived at the Zoo, she was timid and nervous of new situations and new people. She also shied away from our male handlers and much preferred contact with female staff.
Sheeba has gradually grown into a confident young lady, leading her handlers on her zoo walks and even enjoys spending time with her male handlers. She is now a very affectionate cat, and loves to groom the arms and faces of her handlers. However, as her tongue is as rough as sandpaper, kisses from Sheeba can be a bit painful!
Apart from eating, Sheeba loves running around her enclosure during a toy session with her handlers. She also loves motorbikes, and often gets distracted during a training session or on one of her walks around the zoo when she hears or sees one in the distance. Next time you are at Australia Zoo, keep an eye out for this cheeky little girl.
Age: 5 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.