Cheetah have favourite fallen trees which they will mark territory on.
This male cheetah at Londolozi marks his territory under a rising moon
One of the survival methods that cheetah will use, is
that they have large litters of cubs.
The survival rate of the cheetah cubs, is the lowest
of all the big cats and I have personally filmed lion, leopard and
spotted hyena killing cheetah cubs.
Cheetah cubs have a mantle up to the age of 3 months. This helps
camouflage them in the tall grass
Therefore if a cheetah mother produces 6 cubs and she
raises one to adulthood, then she has done well. (There is a case in
captivity where a female cheetah gave birth to 8 cubs)
Of all the Big Cats, cheetah has the best long sight. In an experiment
in the Masai Mara, a female cheetah was able to see a newly born gazelle
at a distance of over 1km
In the Tiger Canyons experiment, we have discovered a
second survival technique. A mother cheetah can produce her first litter
of cubs at just 24 months. (According to Will van Duyn who has bred many
cheetah, it is rare but it does occur).
Runde gets up high of a rock at Tiger Canyons to spot any approaching
Lion, leopard, jaguar and tiger will produce their
first litters after 36 months.
Therefore the cheetah mother has a full 12 months
start on the bigger cats. This is a big advantage.
However cheetah don't live as long as the bigger cats
so the breeding time of the female cheetah is less. (Cheetah lifespan 10
- 12 yrs; lion 12 - 16 years; leopard 14 - 17 years; tiger 15 years)
The flat rudder like tail counter balances Sabi as he jumps across the
river at Tiger Canyons
At Tiger Canyons, one of our female cheetah, either
Mara or Shashe, has produced 3 cubs. (We have not yet identified the
mother). What is more extraordinarily, is that the female cheetah was
impregnated by the male cheetah Sabi, who was not yet 20 months old at
the time of the mating.
With no rival predators to compete with her, the
chances of her raising all 3 cubs are excellent. (Her only danger would
be caracal, jackal, black eagle, fire, flood or disease)
The non-retractable claws on the female Mara, acts like the spikes of a
sprinter as she moves at high speed
One tends to think of cheetah as predators of small
to medium small size prey. However the cheetah at Tiger Canyons have
captured steenbuck, springbuck and adult blesbuck.
At Modgaji, Will van Duyn's place (Shashe and Mara
both came from there), the cheetah regularly catch adult kudu. This is
no mean feat for a cat which weighs just 70 kilograms (An adult kudu
female can weigh 210kg)
Shashe elevates on a termite mound as she searches for game at Tiger
One of the most interesting things about cheetah
mating behaviour, is that it is rarely if ever seen.
Warren Samuels who has spent a lifetime filming in
the Masai Mara, a cheetah stronghold, has never captured it on film.
During my 17 years in the Masai Mara, I twice filmed 2 males competing
over a females in estrus. However, I was never able to film the actual
Runde walks across the dam wall at Yvette's Dam at Tiger Canyons after
80mm of rain had fallen
It seems that unlike lions, leopards and tigers who
copulate many times during a period of 4 to 5 days, the copulation is
believed to bring the female into ovulation, the cheetah is shy during
mating, preferring to hide in thick bush or mate at night. It seems a
few copulations are necessary for the male cheetah to impregnate the
female and then the male moves on.
I have never ever filmed the male cheetah with
the female and her cubs. If anyone has seen or photographed cheetah
father, mother and cubs together, would they let me know. In
addition, if you have ever seen or filmed wild cheetah mating, I
would dearly love to see the sequence.
The tear line acts as natural dark glasses as it throws a shadow
across the eyes of the diurnal cheetah
I have filmed lion, lioness and cubs, male
leopard, female leopard and cubs and male tiger, tigress and cubs
together in the same frame. Never cheetah!
The more I work with the big cats, the more I realize
that there is nothing wrong with their hunting, their reproduction and
their ability to adapt. However, all of them compete with human beings
and this is a war that they will most certainly lose.
These are the numbers put out for Big Cats in the
wild, but not necessarily correct:
Asian lion – 411 in the wild (in my opinion this is too high)
African lion – 25 000 (this is a drop from 50 000 10 years ago)
Tigers – 3 200 (in my opinion this number is closer to 1 200 and
declining at the rate of one per day)
Amur Leopard - 35 left in the wild
African leopard – unknown
African Cheetah – 7 500 (in my opinion this is high)
Asian cheetah – is almost extinct
Jaguar – 15 000
Tread lightly on the Earth