The Cool Cats: Cheetahs, Caracals, and Servals [Research]

Now that things have settled down just a bit since arriving in South Africa, I thought I would share with you some important information about many of the animals Jake and I are working with from day-to-day.

(I should inform you that I have fallen in love with each of them and they all have their own personalities – much like people.) Whether a serval, cheetah, meerkat, caracal, or the adorable bat-eared foxes – all of the animals at Cheetah Outreach are both adorable AND greatly important to African ecosystems.

So I will keep this simple… Just some interesting facts that I feel obligated to share with you. And some awesome pictures to come… As I write this, I am enjoying a glass of wine at my favorite cafe called Java Bistro & CO. I am not sure what I will do without this place when I get home!

So first – let’s start with the Cheetahs of course! I will keep the rest simple for your easy reading. (information is learned from and provided by Cheetah Outreach.)

There are currently only about 7,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild (based on an IUCN update from 2015. If you don’t know what the IUCN – it is basically the head honcho of all wildlife population trackers and numbers.)
The cheetah in the wild only lives in about 9% of its original territory. They once roamed across much of the African continent and into the Middle East, Central Asia, and India.
In Southern Africa – there are about 4,200 cheetahs – the most of anywhere remaining in the world.
Specifically, there are around 1,300 in South Africa (400 in Kruger National Park, 80 in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and around 300 in private reserve type areas. There are also around 500 roaming on surrounding farmland.
As far as cheetahs in captivity goes – there are around 1,818 in just about 270 different global facilities.
Cheetahs can run up to around 70mph in 3 seconds – but only for about 30 seconds max.
At top speed, one stride of a cheetah can cover about 34 feet (they basically fly!)
They have enlarged nasal passages, heart, arteries, and of course lungs to make sure they get the oxygen they need while running so fast.

Why are the cheetahs endangered?
Their natural habitat is being overtaken by humans, agriculture, and growing populations.
The animals they normally prey on in the wild are also dropping in numbers due to land competition with livestock such as cows, goats, and sheep.
Sadly, there is a large illegal trade of live cheetah cubs that people, especially in the Middle East, desire to keep as pets.
There is the threat of a lack of genetic diversity as the number of cheetahs decline. This can threaten their ability to adapt, remain diverse, and grow as a population overall.

I should mention that all of the cheetahs at Cheetah Outreach are born in captivity and hand raised. Yes, it is sad to think of animals being born in captivity, but the lives they are provided with ensure the longevity of their entire species is looked after. They also keep the genetic pool alive and flowing as wild cheetahs continue to lose their territories. The list goes on, but trust me – I wouldn’t be a part of an organization that isn’t in it for the right reasons.

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Ebony – one of the amazing cheetahs here

What are the cheetahs predators and is the cheetah dangerous?
Mainly lion, hyena, and the leopard in the wild. Overall, man is cheetah’s biggest threat. Lions will kill cheetah cubs in the wild to defend their own territory.
Cheetahs are non aggressive and would much rather avoid confrontation.
There has ever been a recorded case of a healthy wild cheetah attacking an adult human.
They are built for speed and not power – they prefer to run and not fight!

Okay so there is enough about the Cheetahs for now! If you want to know more – please ask. Again, this is just a brief run down of some surface level facts that are good to know. The cheetah is an absolutely stunning animal. The power they have, the sleekness, and the beauty is like no other.

The Cheetah Outreach is also home to other African wildlife who sadly, farmers retaliate against due to livestock losses. Like the cheetah, these animals face persecution in the wild because they often come in close contact with farmers’ livestock. But the growing effort of the Livestock Guard Dog Program is helping to protect these animals and the livestock. Make sure you check out my other post on the LGD to read more.

Caracals
These medium sized cats are mostly solitary and nocturnal.
They eat small rodents, rabbits, and even small monkeys.
They are awesome leapers and climb quite well – allowing them to even catch birds mid air.
Strong hind legs allow them to jump up to 10 feet into the air

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Gracie – she can jump so high!

Serval – (pictures to come, google in the mean time!)
These guys love to mark their territory with urine. (I have witnessed it myself)
They have long and fast arms. When they are threatened they will arch their backs and stand on their tip toes at times.
They live up to around 11 years in the wild and eat primarily small rodents and birds.
Their long neck helps them to locate and ambush prey in thick bush and grass.

Bat Eared Foxes (pictures to come – but google them in the mean time – so cute!)
Live in dry, open country and plains.
They live in monogamous adult pairs and can have up to 6 offspring they live with as well.
They are carnivores and are non-territorial
Often they will dig prey out of holes and love to live in burrows.

Well, there is just a bit of good old-fashioned information for you on some of the wildlife at Cheetah Outreach… Stay tuned for more!

Having Wifi is tough here so I can’t post often. I hope you are having a great day and thank you for reading!

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