Cheetah Mother and Cubs, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a big cat in the subfamily Felinae that inhabits most of Africa and parts of Iran. It is the only extant member of the genus Acinonyx. The cheetah can run as fast as 109.4 to 120.7 km/h (68.0 to 75.0 mph), faster than any other land animal. It covers distances up to 500 m (1,640 ft) in short bursts, and can accelerate from 0 to 96 km/h (0 to 60 mph) in three seconds.

The cheetah is a unique felid, with its closest living relatives being the puma and jaguarundi of the Americas. This cat is notable for modifications in the species’ paws, being one of the few felids with only semi-retractable claws.

Its main hunting strategy is to trip swift prey such as various antelope species and hares with their dewclaw. Almost every facet of the cheetah’s anatomy has evolved to maximise its success in the chase, the result of an evolutionary arms race with its prey. Due to this specialisation, however, the cheetah is poorly equipped to defend itself against other large predators, with speed being its main means of defence.

In the wild, the cheetah is a prolific breeder, with up to nine cubs in a litter. The majority of cubs do not survive to adulthood, mainly as a result of depredation from other predators. The rate of cub mortality varies from area to area, from 50% to 75%, and in extreme cases such as the Serengeti ecosystem, up to 90%. Cheetahs are notoriously poor breeders in captivity, though several organizations, such as the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre, have succeeded in breeding high numbers of cubs.

The cheetah is listed as vulnerable, facing various threats including: loss of habitat and prey; conflict with humans; the illegal pet trade; competition with and predation by other carnivores; and a gene pool with very low variability. It is a charismatic species and many captive cats are “ambassadors” for their species and wildlife conservation in general.

The Maasai Mara National Reserve (also known as Masai Mara and by the locals as The Mara) is a large game reserve in Narok County, Kenya, contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Mara Region, Tanzania. It is named in honor of the Maasai people (the ancestral inhabitants of the area) and their description of the area when looked at from afar: “Mara,” which is Maa (Maasai language) for “spotted,” an apt description for the circles of trees, scrub, savanna, and cloud shadows that mark the area.

It is globally famous for its exceptional population of Masai lions, African leopards and Tanzanian cheetahs, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, and wildebeest to and from the Serengeti every year from July to October, known as the Great Migration.

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is only a fraction of the Greater Mara Ecosystem, which includes the following Group Ranches: Koiyaki, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Olkinyei, Siana, Maji Moto, Naikara, Ol Derkesi, Kerinkani, Oloirien, and Kimintet.

Cheetah Mother and Cubs, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

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