Mema – Cheetah

Mema is a female African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) born in mid-November 2018. She came to the Foundation due to issues with her front legs as well as a vitamin deficiency that affected her sight the same as her sister, Paradise. They both should regain most or all of their sight within the next few years with help of our nutritional program. Due to her legs and sight issues the vet has recommended she stay in a smaller enclosure. She was named after one of our longtime supporters. She will join our educational program as an ambassador of her species.

The cheetah is a slender, long-legged, aerodynamically built cat. The cheetah has a small head with high set eyes and small teeth accommodating for large nasal passages that allow for increased air intake. The cheetah is distinctly marked with solid black round or oval spots covering its yellow or tan fur coat and black tear marks that run from the inner corner of each eye down to the cat’s mouth. The cheetah’s entire body is covered in spots except for the cat’s throat and belly which is covered in white fur. Cheetahs are often confused with leopards and vice versa; however, cheetahs have a much thinner build and their fur is covered in spots whereas leopards have a rosette pattern to their fur.

Unlike most big cats, cheetahs are diurnal, hunting in the early morning and late afternoon. Cheetahs have a unique hunting style in comparison to other big cat species. The cheetah will scan the grassland from a mound or tree limb and once the prey has been spotted the cheetah will quietly sneak within 100 yards of it. The cheetah makes use of its easily camouflaged fur coat and black tear marks running down their face which reflects the glare of the sun and acts as aim to allow the cheetah to stay focused on its target. Once the cheetah is within 100 yards of its target, it will accelerate into a full sprint reaching 60 mph in just 3 seconds. While sprinting, the cheetah uses its semi non-retractable claws for traction and long muscular tail for balance and steering. This chase only lasts about 20 seconds and costs the cheetah a tremendous amount of energy. Only about half of the cheetah’s hunts are successful and when they are, cheetahs eat very quickly because their slender build and small teeth do not provide much protection from other predators. As a result of this, more than 50% of the cheetahs food is stolen by lions and hyenas.

The cheetah breeds throughout the year, with females becoming sexually mature just before 2 years of age. Female cheetahs give birth to between 2 to 8 cubs but more commonly 3 to 5. Cheetahs also have a very high mortality rate, with more than 75% of their young not reaching 3 months of age. The extremely high mortality rate is primarily due to predation by lions and other competing predators.

Cheetahs are native to southern and eastern Africa and Iran. Females tend to be solitary except during times of breeding and caring for their cubs. Alternatively, males tend to form groups, or coalitions, where they will work together to defend their territory. The coalitions are generally made up of brothers from the same litter or single males of other litters.

Trivia: Cheetahs are the single surviving species of the genus Acinonyx.

Cheetah Statistics:

Body Size 3.5 – 4.5 ft long, tail is 25.5 – 31.5 inches long
Weight 75 – 140 lbs
Gestation Period 90 days
Litter Size 2 – 8 cubs
Life Span 8 – 10 years in the wild, 12 – 15 years in captivity
Status Vulnerable