Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)


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Up the road from Penguin Cove and opposite the Pygmy hippo paddocks.

Fast facts

Status Vulnerable

Size Head and body length: 112-144cm. Tail length: 66-84cm. Males tend to be bigger than females.

Weight 38- 43kg

Gestation 3 months

Young 2- 4 cubs

Life span 10-12 years in the wild, up to 18 years in captivity

What do I eat?

Cheetahs are carnivores, and will feed on other animals such as gazelles, impala, wildebeest calves, warthogs, scrub hares and other small mammals. 

They are most active during the day (diurnal), and start their search of food at daybreak. Cheetah often hunt alone to avoid competition from other large predators; however mothers and cubs may hunt together. 

Where do I live?

Cheetah can be found in open, grassy savannah as well as within dry bush, scrub and open forest areas in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Cheetahs are able to breed from 2-3 years old. Cheetah cubs are born blind and are nursed in rocky outcrops or within tall grasses. To keep the cubs safe, the mother will move the cubs to a new den site every couple of days. The mother must leave the cubs on their own while she hunts, until they are roughly 6-8 weeks old and are able to follow her.

The cubs will leave their mother at 1-2 years old, but they will stay together for a further 6 months. Female cubs will usually leave after this time; but the males will often remain together.


Cheetahs are one of the top predators in their habitat. However cheetah cubs are threatened by other predators such as lions, hyenas and baboons; up to 90% of cheetah cubs will not live past their first year.

To stay safe, cheetah cubs have a silver/white mane and coat with darker marking on their stomachs for their first 8-10 weeks of life; this gives them similar markings as the honey badger- a fierce animal that lives in the same habitat.


The main threats to cheetah include hunting and loss of habitat due to demand in land for agriculture. More livestock animals have been introduced to areas that large predators (such as the cheetah) are found within; this has led to an increase of large carnivores being hunted by farmers to protect their livestock. 


Did you know?

The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world, reaching top speeds of 60-65mph.

Cheetah can only maintain their top running speed for a short time (between 20-60 seconds), as they do not have the stamina to run for long periods. About half of cheetah hunts are successful. 

The claws of cheetah are not fully retractable, and give better grip when running (much like studs on football boots); however these claws will gradually wear down.

Cheetah cannot roar like other big cats, but will make other vocalisations such as hiss, chirp and purr.

Cheetahs have been kept in captivity since 3000 BC. They were used to hunt game animals, and were once kept as pets in many cultures.


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Amazing day at Marwell zoo, topped by feeding the giraffes. Husband and I fed 7 giraffes by hand. I got sneezed on by kwame, the large male - brilliant!! Loved little Ruby. Very hands on. Not rushed at all. Thank you Megan, for making this an amazing experience for us both…Cathryn, 4th February 2016