Species at Risk
Knowing Wildlife and the Impact of
Tourism on Cheetahs
Common and Scientiﬁc names Habitat and Range Distribution
Kingdom: Animalia Cheetah’s habitats range from dry savannah to
Phylum: Chordata tropical and subtropical shrublands, and from tem-
Class: Mammalia perate, tropical and subtropical grasslands to hot
Order: Carnivora and temperate deserts (IUCN, 2004).
Family: Felidae Cheetahs have a relatively wide distribution
Genus: Acinonyx throughout sub-Saharan Africa, including coun-
Species: jubatus (IUCN, 2004) tries such as Algeria, Niger, Kenya and Namibia;
Sub Species: Acinonyx jubatus hecki, Acinonyx ju- as well as the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah
batus jubatus, Acinonyx jubatus raineyi, Acinonyx ju- (Acinonyx jubatus ssp. venaticus) that now survives
batus ngorongorensis, Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii, only in Iran (IUCN Cat Specialist Group, 2004).
Acinonyx jubatus fearsoni, Acinonyx jubatus venaticus Numbers of the Asiatic cheetah are believed to be
(IUCN Cat Specialist Group, 2004). less than 60, with numbers of the sub-Saharan Af-
Common name: Cheetah (IUCN, 2004) rican cheetah estimated to be 9,000-12,000 (IUCN,
Until 10,000 years ago, ‘cheetahs were common Ecological Requirements
in North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe’ (Uni- Ecological requirements for the cheetah include
versity of Michigan Museum of Zoology, year un- their prey base, which mainly consists of gazelles
known). (IUCN, 2004), as well as small to medium sized un-
Around this time, it is thought that the chee- gulates such as impalas.
tah genus narrowly escaped extinction and conse- The habitat cheetahs occupy provides them
quently experienced a bo�leneck event, followed with protection from larger predators and cover-
by a period of inbreeding (Merola, 1994), creat- age during hunting.
ing the limited genetic variation that is seen today As a semi-nomadic species (IUCN, 2004), chee-
among the sub-species of cheetah. tahs require relatively large areas for movement.
Only the king cheetah exposes a vast variation Female cheetahs can occupy home ranges of up to
in cheetah morphology, with longer fur on the back 800km squared within their roaming habitat (IUCN
of the head and neck and elongated spots that join Cat Specialist Group, 2004).
to form irregular markings over the rest of its body.
However, this variation is caused by a recessive Natural Predators
gene in the species, and is not another sub-species Natural predators of cheetahs include the more suc-
of cheetah (University of Michigan Museum of zo- cessful carnivores of African plains such as lions,
ology, year unknown). leopards, hyenas, and even baboons, which usurp
Cheetah numbers continue to decrease, in part cheetah kills and prey on young cheetahs, contrib-
caused by the increase in human populations, con- uting to their high infant mortality rate (IUCN Cat
tinuing conﬂict with local farmers (Marker et al, Specialist Group, 2004).
2003), and decreasing natural habitat (University Cheetah predators can include humans, espe-
of Michigan Museum of zoology, year unknown). cially farmers and poachers, as decreasing cheetah
numbers have been the result of hunting for pelt,
162 Endangered Species UPDATE Vol. 22 No. 4 2005