(Acinonyx jubatus)




Facts about this animal

The Cheetah is an unmistakable, large and slender cat with greyhound-like appearance. The body profile is nearly quadratic. The head-body length is 120-150 cm, the height at the shoulder 60-80 cm and it weights 40-65 kg. The head is small and rounded with characteristic black stripes running from the inner corner of each eye to the edge of the mouth and a black nose pad. The ears are short and rounded. The backside is black except at the tip. The legs are long and thin, with small-padded feet. The claws are only partly retractile. The tail is long and spotted for its greater part. The spots uniting into bands near the rather bushy tip which is white. The coat is rather coarse and short. The ground colour is pale buff or yellowish tawny. It is entirely covered with small solid round or oval spots, scattered singly and not grouped in "rosettes". The belly is whitish. On the neck and the shoulders the hair is thicker, forming a slight, wiry mane. The young are greyish without pattern at birth, with darker sides. While the pattern appears, a "mantilla" of long, silvery hair still persists on the back.

Did you know?
That cheetahs were trained for hunting with humans as long ago as 5000 years ago? This is known from a Sumerian seal depicting a leashed cheetah with a hood on its head.


Name (Scientific) Acinonyx jubatus
Name (English) Cheetah
Name (French) Guépard
Name (German) Gepard
Name (Spanish) Guepardo, Chita
Local names Afrikaans: Jagluiperd
chiShona, ciVenda: Dindingwe
isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu: Ihlosi
kiSwahili: Duma, msongo, Nama, Damara!Amb
otjiHerero: Shitona
oshiVambo: Shinga
sePedi, seTswana, seSotho: Lengau
siLozi: Linau
siSwati: Lihlosi
Somali: Shabeel
xiTsongo: Ndloti, xinkankanka
Yei: Ungaba
CITES Status Appendix I
CMS Status Appendix I (except populations in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe)



Photo Copyright by
Vladimír Motyčka



Range Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo DR, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe. Possibly extinct in Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Senegal, Western Sahara. Extinct in Burundi, Tunisia. Acinonyx jubatus venaticus: Iran, extinct or possibly extinct in other Near and Middle East countries and in Central Asia.
Habitat Semi-desert to open grasslands
Wild population Approx. 7'000 to 10'000 (2009)
Zoo population The captive cheetah population on December 31, 2007 was 1414 (730.679.5) animals in 254 facilities in 48 countries. Of the 1414 animals, 76% or 1069 (554.510.5) were captive-born and 23% or 330 (166.164) were wild born . Fifteen (10.5.0) animals were of unknown origin. 1827 cheetahs are reported to ISIS (April 2009, including 1017 animals of Cheetah Conservation Fund, Otjiwarongo, Namibia). Most animals registered are of southern african origin and belong to the subspecies A. j. jubatus. There are, however at least 116 A. j. soemmeringii mostly in the United Arab Emirates, which are managed as a separated subpopulation within the EEP, and 2 West African A. j. hecki.

In the Zoo



How this animal should be transported

Transport crates should be sufficiently large to meet legal requirements, sufficiently strong to prevent escape or damage to the crate and animal, and have an adequate number of handles. Basic design should allow free flow of air through multiple sides of the container. A double door design on each end of the crate should be used. The "inner" door on each end should have bars to contain the animal, and the "outer" door should consist of a thin panel of expanded metal that provides safety for the handlers. The doors on each end of the crate should travel vertically to facilitate animal transfer and contain a secure locking system. The crate should drain well, and absorbent bedding should be used to prevent the animal from being exposed to or lying in urine or excreta. The crate should be of a size that allows easy lifting, transport and movement through doorways.


The shipment should be organised in a way to minimise stress. The animal should have access to its transport crate for 2 weeks before shipment, preferably being fed within it. If an extended trip is anticipated, water and eventually food should be provided while the animal is in transit. Ideally one of the animal's keepers should accompany it during transport, providing for its care and helping it adjust to the new environment.


For air transport, Container Note 72 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Thomas Jermann

Why do zoos keep this animal

The cheetah is rated a Vulnerable species and has disappeared from large parts of its range. Breeding cheetahs in zoos proved originally to be very difficult. In 1972 an International Studbook was established under the WAZA umbrella, and zoos maintain now a largeley self-sustained reserve population managed under regional conservation breeding programmes (ARAZPA, AZA, EAZA, JAZA, PAAZAB).


The cheetah may well become an example of a species requiring a joint management of ex situ and in situ metapopulations: In South Africa there are only between 300 and 400 truly free-ranging cheetahs left. Some 350 are confined to fenced and often privately owned wildlife reserves, and 265 are kept under "captive" conditions.


Some zoos keeping cheetahs support in situ conservation projects. The cheetah, being the fastest land mammal and a very specialized cat is also important for environmental education, and it belong to the charismatic species that are good  for their wild cousins and other species sharing the same habitat.