The Elusive Cheetah
On Friday, October 23rd, while the camera was panning around at NK, finding us elephants and impalas, one of those “blink of the eye” animals flew through the picture, causing all of us to wonder... “What was that?” “Did you see that?” “Was it a cat?” We all pondered as the zoomie behind the NK controls began to search, and wow, did that zoomie find an amazing treasure. A cheetah, long, lanky and graceful was making its way to the waterhole. Tweeps and emails went flying, Facebook was updated and telephones were ringing. Not only was this a rare sighting, but this cat stayed around the waterhole for a couple of hours, perhaps breaking the record for the longest we’ve been allowed to see such a beauty on our live cams.
A mature cheetah’s body has around 2,000 spots, and those long dark tear marks not only make his face memorable, but serve the purpose of deflecting the sun away from the eyes when he is streaking through the grass chasing his targeted prey at high speed. His hunting habits are unique too, as he will stalk his prey carefully and patiently until he is as close as he can be, then bursts into a speedy attack. When and if he catches up to the prey, he will trip it with a front paw and grab its throat as it falls, a swift and almost painless death for most that meet this untimely demise.
This speedy animal is one of only a few that when running at top speed actually has all four feet off the ground at the same time. He can cover as much as 6-9 meters in a single stride. At around 3 strides per second, the cheetah is capable of reaching a speed of 110km/h or more, and for half of every stride, the cheetah is actually airborne. But this speed comes with a very high price. The cheetah’s breathing changes from 60 breaths to 150 breaths per minute during a high-speed chase, and at that rate he can only run that fast for 400 to 600 yards before he is exhausted. This is when the cheetah himself becomes extremely vulnerable. Not only could another predator steal his prey, but he could be attacked as well.
The survival rate of cheetah cubs is only 5%, as the mother has to leave them unattended for hours when they are very young, for months on end. Considering the facts that back in the early 1900’s there were more than 100,000 cheetahs in over 40 countries across Africa and Asia, and now only an estimated number of somewhere around 10,000-12,000 in approximately 25 countries across Africa, you might begin to appreciate how lucky we were to have witnessed the lounging of one of the most beautiful and elusive creatures of Africa.
Now take another look at a clip of the visit from this regal animal, and enjoy every moment. It may very well be a very, very long time before we are privy to such a lengthy visit, if ever again.
And yes, the cheetah purrs just like your ordinary housecat.