Cheetah: The Hunter Being Hunted

Published January 16, 2015

Cheetah: The Hunter Being Hunted

If an international land animal race were ever to be held, the winner would most certainly be the graceful and speedy cheetah. This large feline creature can reach up to 75 miles per hour, covering distances up to 1,600 feet at a time. Due to soaring body temperature at top speed, the cheetah can only maintain such swiftness for short periods of time. Its acceleration is also wondrous – from being at rest, it can reach a running speed 60 miles per hour in three short seconds! The cheetah’s entire physical structure is built for aerodynamic efficiency; its long, lean, and light body is its greatest advantage when it comes to outracing its peers in the big cat family.

Even apart from its amazing speed, the cheetah is an interesting and fascinating animal. For example, it has a markedly unique appearance thanks to its black “tear marks”, which extend from the inner corner of its eyes down till the outer corners of its mouth. The objective of this trademark feature is to protect the animal’s eyes from sunlight by reflecting the harsh glare. This is especially helpful because cheetahs hunt only during the day; unlike some other big cats, they do not have nocturnal vision. The hunting process involves stalking the potential prey in silence and springing upon it rapidly at the opportune moment. Cheetahs hunt wildebeest calves, gazelles, impalas, hares, birds, etc.

The highest concentration of cheetahs can be found in Africa today, some in the Sub-Saharan wilderness and others in protected reserves. Sadly, the population of this amazing animal has been steadily decreasing. From an estimated 100,000 cheetahs in the wild about a century ago, it has fallen to somewhere between 9,000 and 12,000 – a decline of approximately 90 percent! This natural hunter is being hunted, driven by unnatural acts like poaching, hunting, and smuggling. For example, cheetahs are considered ideal exotic pets in some regions such as the Middle East, which motivates smugglers to take cubs from the African wild and sell them illegally. Around two-thirds of the smuggled animals die on the way. Another factor driving poachers is the trade in illegal animal parts, like using the skin, bones, and teeth in magic rituals and traditional medical practices. This big cat is now considered an endangered species and needs to be protected to ensure future survival. In Iran, the cheetahs are hanging on by a thread – only 40-100 animals are left in the wild.

Speed is not the only wonder in the animal kingdom; in fact, there are countless miraculous phenomena to be found. Take hibernation, for instance. Many animals go into a state of deep sleep in order to survive the harsh winter months. This state of suspended animation slows down the creature’s body processes (like breathing and heartbeat) and lowers its body temperature, helping it conserve energy. Hibernation may last for hours, weeks, or months. Some animals hibernate all through the worst of the winter, such as wood frog and hedgehogs, both of whose heart rates drop during the process; in fact, a wood frog’s heart stops entirely! Other creatures fall into this state repeatedly on a daily basis, such as deer mice, which have short life spans. Bears in cold areas enjoy a light hibernation and can be woken up quite easily. Hamsters, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, and skunks are other animals that hibernate during winter months. The extreme nature of this process causes some animals to emerge from it feeling utterly exhausted.

Cheetah: The Hunter Being Hunted Credit Picture License: ucumari photography via photopin cc

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