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Mammals

Cheetah

cheetah

Acinonyx jubatus

Distribution:

Northern and Central Africa

Habitat::

Savannah, most regions of Africa except the rainforests

Diet:

Small to medium mammans under 40kg including gazelles, impala, wildebeest calves. Guineafowl and hares are also prey

Gestation:

91-95 days, average 3-4 offspring

Longevity:

Up to 12 years in the wild, longer in captivity

Predators:

Humans, lions, hyenas

Conservation status:

Vulnerable

General:

The cheetah is easily distinguished from other spotted cats by its slim build, long legs and small head with characteristic black tear marks running from the eyes to the mouth. The English name is derived from the Hindi Chita, meaning ‘spotted one’.

Cheetahs are the fastest land mammal on earth, able to reach speeds of 60mph. It has several physical adaptations, which help to reach its top speed, such as special paw pads and non-retractable claws, allowing greater grip or traction on the ground. It also has large nostrils and lungs, which provide quick air intake. The cheetah's body is long and narrow like a greyhound, and this streamlining allows it to move quickly. It also has very light bones to reduce its weight load. Running at high speed consumes a lot of energy and so cannot be maintained for more than a few hundred metres.

While the other big cats mainly 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 – a strategy that may help avoid competition with lions and hyenas.

The big cat is endangered; fewer than 10,000 survive in the wild, mainly due to killing by farmers and loss of habitat and prey species due to human activities. Hunting for its fur was once a major threat.

At Hamilton Zoo:

Moyo has lived here at Hamilton Zoo since August 2007 when he arrived from Taronga Western Plains Zoo with his twin brother Jambo. Both boys were born on October 1 2004.


Jambo died early 2016 after his quality of life diminished significantly due to becoming almost 100 per cent blind. It is not unusual for cheetah to live alone in the wild and Moyo is noticably more active now that he does not need to lead his twin brother around. 


Get up close to our cheetah with a Face2Face or Eye2Eye encounter.