Jachtluipaard of cheetah (Achionyx jubatus)
The Cheetah is a medium sized cat with a standing height, approaching 75 cm (the legs are relatively long) and a body length of 110 to 140 cm. The tail adds another 75 cm. The coat is soft and not very long. The base coat color varies from pale yellow to yellowish brown, and the spotting pattern can be quite unclear in extremely dry sand deserts but very pronounced in the north and in the rock massifs such as Hoggar and Tassili. Unlike the leopard, these are real dots. The weights of the cheetah are between forty and sixty kilograms, with males being larger and heavier. Unlike other felines, the claws can not be withdrawn, which makes their tracks very "dog-like".
Cheetah formerly inhabited throughout North Africa south of the Tell Atlas and High Atlas and large parts of the desert. In the Sahel region, he was widespread. Now he only exists in the mountains of the Hoggar and Tassili in southern Algeria and perhaps in the Western Sahara. In the border of Egypt and Libya, the species has only recently disappeared. In the south of his distribution he connected perfectly with his fellows from the savannahs of West Africa.
Cheetahs have, due their hunting technique, an absolute preference for dry open fields or mountains with broad valleys little overgrown. They may be short grassland, savannah, bush savannah with Acacia and very open forests, often with Junipers. There may be also sections with stony slopes and valleys. This discribes the area to settle a territory, which is marked by the male at obvious places with urine. Cheetahs avoid people and only during severe droughts they can come to drink at wells.
Food and hunting technique
Cheetahs try to catch larger prey such as young gazelles and antelopes as much as possible, but can by absence also survive of hares, hyraxes and birds such as partridges, guinea fowl and young ostriches and bustards. Even cattle like young camels and feral donkey foals are regularly eaten. Since he has no direct competitors in our area, the animal can come back to the carcass of his kill for several days. He rolls as it looks, skin-side up and the head remains the longest untouched. In the absence of the other larger carnivores, he can also hunt at night which increases the efficiency of hunting a lot. They do not bury their prey, and scavenging is also not known. Cheetahs hunt solitary, but also in family groups(up to 4 together) and in such cases mostly on large prey like wild donkeys. During their hunting trips they cover large distances, but in North Africa is still no telemetry study carried out and therefore not known.
Male and female are not really a couple but a specific male or a group of males can overlap with the females territory and fertilize her repeatedly when she comes into estrus. The cups (up to 3) are born throughout the year and it is only the female that takes care for the litter. They are two months suckled and can stay till complete independence with their mothers until eighteen months. Females can give birth to an age of approximately 15 years.
The gestation period takes 90 to 95 days to complete, after which the cups are born in a hidden place in the parental territory, weighting over 300 grams. The eyes are opened after 4 to 14 days. Weaning takes about 8 weeks, from the age of 21-28 days they are supplemented with predigested food, vomited by the female. With three months they eat solid food independently. With 21 to 22 months, the females reach maturity, males already with 14 months but their weight gains until they reach the age of 4 years. They can live up to 17 years (in captivity as long as 26 years)
Behavioral / Social System / Day night rhythm
The social system of the cheetah is unique with semi-social behavior of males and antisocial behavior of the females. In males there are also both territorial and non-territorial individuals. The habitats of male and female cheetahs over lapping each other and young animals are forced to leave the area of the parents once they are independent. They often avoid each other and territorial males use therefor a distinct marking with urine and feces. In the Sahara they are mainly night and twilight hunters. The females have different types of sounds for contact with the cups. In the Sahara mountains of southern Algeria, a density of 0.21 to 0.55 animals per 1000 km² was found with a home range size around 1580 km². It is still not understood whether this are territorial or none territorial animals.
Enemies and causes of death
Humans in North Africa are the only enemy of the cheetah, now that the lion has been eradicated. There never have been spotted hyenas in this area. Previously, the animal was hunted for its skin and in the Tuareg hierarchy, a cheetah skin on a camel saddle is coveted. Now it is about Cheetahs who are weakened found at water points and then as "dangerous" killed by authorities or soldiers. But if there are attacks on livestock, including camel calfs the cheetah will be killed by the Tuaregs.
Relationship with humans
Cheetahs are considered by the Tuareg breeders a minor problem, compared for instance with the jackal, and the killing of a goat is usually tolerated because in their minds the cheetah is a noble animal to be treated with respect and certainly not just killed. This doesn’t mean that the animal may not be chased off and the shepherds therefore will attack it by using their sticks. Young animals at night are usually stowed in a safe place (by building a kind of cottage by piling of large flat stones). Again, this is rather a measure against jackal as against cheetah. Poison is hardly used and eating bait is not mentioned.
Threats and Status
The estimated numbers of the Cheetah population in southern Algeria are a 250 individuals and are situated complete within 2 national parks. The species is legally protected. In theory, the species is well protected but by its small population size remains vulnerable.
NABCS supports local researchers who study the specie and asks the local nature lovers and photographers to keep their eyes and ears open as an additional source concerning the possible existence in the Sahara Atlas area. It teaches field people to also look for these species through education and tips about search and track marking behavior.
Belbachir, F. et al: 2015 : Monitoring Rarity: the critically endangered Saharan cheetah as a flagship species of a threatened ecosystem. PLos ONE 10(1) : e0115136
Kingdom, J. 2013. Mammals of Africa. Volume V, 187-196. Bloomsbury, London.