When visiting Africa many people dream of seeing the magnificent Big 5 and by all means, the Big 5 is an iconic piece of the African wilderness puzzle, but the graceful cheetah is just as special as any of them.
Due to their nature, cheetahs are not considered to be dangerous. Typically, they would avoid conflict and instead of standing their ground to fight like the Big 5, they would flee dangerous situations rather than run the risk of potential injuries, which could be a death sentence in the African wilderness. They are therefore often pushed off their kill by a variety of other predators such as lion, leopard, hyena and even a pack of jackals. Cheetah tend to gorge themselves on the meat of their kills, usually consuming the rump first, followed by the liver as these are extremely rich in nutrients, before their prized kill may be stolen away at any given time.
In addition, the cheetah is built more for speed than power and often when making a kill it takes a bit of time to kill the prey species, whose distress call could attract other hungry mouths. The cheetah capitalises on hunting during the day (it is known as a ‘diurnal predator’) in order to avoid pressure from the much larger nocturnal predators of the night and their prey species range anywhere from a small rodent all the way up to a wildebeest.
Cheetah may not be the strongest, but it certainly is the fastest of all land mammals. With a streamlined head shaped like a bullet, it has a near aerodynamic design. The Cheetah’s anatomical design is further enhanced by a collar bone which acts like a shock absorber during sharp turns in the chase. Any good runner believes in quality foot ware, and since the cheetah’s claws are not fully retractable like most of the cat family, they rely on their claws to gain traction during the chase.
Definitely under-rated and certainly worthy of more recognition, the cheetah remains a regular during our sightings here at Mhondoro. I hope you too will be fortunate enough to see cheetah on your next visit!