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800 Cheetahs Are on the Prowl in Kenya

Cheetahs, along with the African lion and leopards, are some of the “Big Cats” that live in Kenya. Their trademark features are their spotted light brown coat and black tearline that runs down either side of the face.

Anyone who has ever seen one will always say they look quite sad, an expression that comes from the appearance of black tears running from the inside corner of each eye. There’s no need to worry though, they aren’t tears but a special antiglare mechanism that helps these animals keep their eyes firmly on the prey in the shimmering savannah heat.

Speed

The Ferrari of the animal world; the cheetahs are the world’s fastest animals, sleek with great traction control. It can reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour over short distances due to its long slim muscular legs, a small head, deep chest, flexible tail and a long tail.

Lightening Bolt

These Kenya animals received some welcome international publicity recently when Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, adopted a cub and named him “Lightening Bolt.”

The champion sprinter from Jamaica was on a four day trip to Kenya to help a German charity the Zeitz Foundation launch a new conservation initiative when he met a three month old cub and named him after himself. It’s unbelievable that one day it will run faster than he can.

Family-Oriented

Cheetahs are solitary animals; they prefer to be alone rather than spending time with others with the only exception being when a mother is bringing up her cubs. They are what every mother should be, patient and protective.

They spend about a year teaching their cubs the craft of hunting, even getting the cubs to practice stalking and chasing live prey. The mother then spends another year and a half with the cubs before they leave to face the wild world on their own. The males, live in small groups of two or three, normally with their littermates.

What do Cheetahs Eat?

Unlike most of its relatives in the cat family, these cats hunt early in the morning or evening, getting as close as possible to the target prey before breaking into a chase. Once they’ve knocked their prey to the ground, they suffocate it with a bite to the neck. It’s all very quick, and if they are lucky enough to go unseen they will drag their catch to a shady hiding place.

Eating also has to be done very quickly as other predators such as the African lion, hyenas and vultures are soon on the scene and don’t give up. This cat is timid and won’t argue with bullies, it would rather walk away and leave them to the meal.

So, on the menu are mouth-watering dishes such as impalas, gazelles, warthogs, hares, jackals and also birds. Cheetahs only need to drink every three to four days so water doesn’t exactly top the list of priorities.

Habitat

The food requirements dictate where you can usually find these cats. Their favorite habitat is the wide open and partially open Savannah.

In addition, they need some cover such as long grass, bush and shrubs in order to adequately stalk their victims before pouncing. Some of the best places in Kenya with this sort of terrain are the Masai Mara National Reserve and Amboseli National Park.

The film set wilderness of the Masai Mara is a huge expanse of land, reaching to the border with Tanzania and covers 320 square km. The park’s ecosystem attracts a great number of animals with these cats being lured by the park’s open grasslands.

Amboseli National Park is much smaller but has some beautiful views, especially of Africa’s highest mountain, the Kilimanjaro. What’s of more interest to cheetahs though is the dry river bed of Lake Amboseli on the western side of the park. Although it sometimes floods during the rainy season, most of the time, it provides lots of open ground suitable for the chase.

If you’re only in Nairobi for a short time and can’t get to the parks, the Nairobi Safari Walk is a great place to see one of these cats in quasi-wild conditions. Just walk along the raised boardwalk, through the savannah and keep your eyes peeled.

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