Cheetah(Acinonyx jubatus)

Cheetahs have yellow coats with solid black spots, and white underbellies. Their tail ends in black bands and is laterally flattened. Solid black lines called “tearmarks” run from the inner corner of each eye to the outer corners of the mouth. Eye colour ranges from pale gold to dark brown. Cheetahs have long legs with five digits on the front feet and four digits on the back feet, with semi-retractable claws. Cheetahs have a large chest, to accommodate their internal organs adapted for speed, a small waist, and a relatively small head, compared to other large carnivores. Adult male cheetahs in Namibia weigh between 38 and 60 kg, and adult females between 30 and 45 kg.


Although male cheetahs are larger than females, it is difficult to tell their spoor apart. There is a slight difference between the front and back foot. The latter being longer and slightly shorter than the front foot is bigger. Average measurements (mm) are presented (width x height).

Front foot - 88 x 105mm
Back foot - 85 x 107mm

Cheetahs are active at night, and especially around sunrise and sunset. Female cheetahs are solitary, except when rearing cubs. Groups of males, often brothers, are known to form coalitions. Cheetahs have large home ranges (600 – 3000 sqr km). In Namibia cheetahs regularly use “play trees” scent marking. Cubs (3-6) are born after a gestation period of 90-95 days, and stay with their mother for up to 18 months. Contrary to popular belief, cheetahs are just as at home in savannah woodland as they are on the open plains. They will drink when water is available but can rely on their prey for their moisture requirements.

Cheetahs occur throughout most of Namibia, including low densities in the Namib Desert and as far south as the Orange River. Freehold land around Hochfeld and Summerdown support a high density of cheetahs.

Their principle prey consists of small or medium-sized antelope, and the young of larger antelope. In addition cheetahs take a wide range of ground birds and small mammals, such as guinea fowls, bustards, hares, and porcupines. In Etosha cheetahs mainly prey on springboks (70-80% of all kills), followed by scrub hares and steenboks. On freehold land, cheetahs appear to take kudu and hartebeest calves, followed by other smaller species. When available, cheetahs will also prey on exotic game species like impala or blesbok.

Cheetahs are known to kill domestic livestock and, as a result many cheetahs are trapped or shot by farmers that view them as problem animals. Cheetahs are also susceptible to intra-specific competition with other large carnivores. Lions, leopards, wild dogs and spotted hyaenas are known to kill their cubs and steal their food.

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Filmed during a behavioural study in Etosha (1988) using an Infra-red camera supplied by National Geographic. Camera operated by Holly Payne. 00'12 / 648Kb 00'06 / 392Kb 00'10 / 612Kb