The cheetah is the fastest land animal on Earth. They can reach up to 75 miles per hour, making them a fearsome predator. But where do cheetahs live? What kind of habitats do they prefer? And what challenges do they face to survive?
Cheetahs live in Africa and parts of Asia. They are classified as vulnerable species by the IUCN and are actively protected within national parks, forest reserves, and other areas.
Cheetahs serve a vital purpose in the environments they live in. They actively cull their prey’s herd to ensure there is no surplus in numbers that can upset the equilibrium of the ecosystem.
Where do cheetahs live in the wild?
It’s quite alarming that a species as far-reaching as the cheetah was before is now relegated to just small groups spread out across Africa and Asia. Cheetahs today are primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa, with small populations also found in northern Africa and Iran.
The estimated population of cheetahs in the wild is only 7,000, give or take a hundred or so.
It’s even more alarming to think that it only took a hundred years to bring down a 100,000-strong population to less than a tenth of its original numbers.
This is the real tragedy cheetahs have had to face throughout history. If we put the decline at a steady rate of 7,500 cheetahs dying every decade for 120 years, are we looking at a future where future generations can only see cheetahs in books and images?
Cheetahs preferred habitat
Cheetahs prefer wide expanses of land where they can run freely to catch their prey. They prefer fast-moving prey like gazelles who live in wide-open areas. For this matter, the African Savannah is the perfect habitat for the cheetah.
Cheetahs can also be found in the mountain ranges of the Sahara and deserts of Iran.
These magnificent cats only require minimum cover to bring themselves within striking range of their prey. Small shrubs and bushes provide adequate cover to obscure them from sight until the last minute when they spring into action.
It also helps that their coat and marking allow them to blend in with their chosen habitat.
Their creamy-colored coats make them hard to discern from a distance against the sandy background. The spattering of spots on their coats helps break up their overall shape, making them “invisible” to their prey.
With its long black stripes, the king cheetah has a harder time staying incognito.
Cheetahs like firm ground to dig their claws into for better traction during high-speed chases. Their non-retractable claws are one of the reasons why they are so fast and can’t climb trees very well.
Threats within their territory
Cheetahs face many challenges in life. Although they are a part of the big cat family, they are not built for engaging in physical conflict. Cheetahs are constantly in danger of being killed by lions, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, and people.
Cheetahs are seen as potential rivals or threats to the cubs of bigger predators. Although one of Africa’s most lethal predators, Cheetahs must constantly be on the lookout for approaching dangers.
Let’s take a look at the main threats posed to cheetahs:
Other big cats like lions and leopards
Lions are an extremely dangerous threat to cheetahs, even within protected parks. A single lion can easily kill a cheetah if it is within reach.
If the cubs are discovered, the lion can wipe out the entire litter within seconds.
Lions will also steal a cheetah’s kill. This can lead to starvation for adults and cubs alike. Adult cheetahs rely on protein as nourishment, while cubs need milk from their mothers.
Leopards have the same behavior around cheetahs as lions, although altercations with lions are more common.
Although the technical definition for scavengers is those who pick up the discarded items of others, that’s not entirely true for wildlife, particularly in the African savannah. Large groups of vultures and hyenas will drive off a cheetah after it has taken down its prey.
The commotion produced from this interaction between the cheetah and hyenas often attracts unwanted attention.
To avoid further confrontation, the cheetah almost always harkens a hasty escape.
It will have to remain hungry today just to live for another day to avoid a nearby lion roaming in for an easy meal.
We, as a whole, are largely responsible for the cheetah’s decline in numbers. Humans have hunted cheetahs for a variety of purposes.
For some, cheetahs are turned into exotic pets or hunting companions. Others covet the cheetahs’ aesthetically pleasing coats. While others simply see cheetahs as a threat to their or their livestock’s lives.
The worst are those who go on safari to hunt these creatures down. It’s a senseless death that does nothing more than inflating a weak person’s ego and line the pockets of those greedy people abusing the earth’s natural beauty.
Furthermore, our continued encroachment into the cheetah’s territory is robbing these big cats of an opportunity to feed on their favorite prey, meaning they need to look elsewhere for sustenance.
It begs the question, is there a way for humans and cheetahs to live together in peace?
Final thoughts on where cheetahs live
Habitat conservation and protection is the cheetah’s best chance of survival in the wild. Several protected parks feature cheetahs as members of the animals living within them. These parks have rangers and security forces that care for and patrol the area.
Donating time or money to a legitimate park helps keep the place well-funded for the necessary purchases of everything these animals need to thrive.
Volunteering in your services can also help keep their costs down.
The simple act of educating yourself on the plight of the cheetah and sharing the knowledge has the potential to reach the right people who may have more resources to help.
Cheetahs have already survived almost going extinct once. They can do it again with our help. Hopefully, this time we will find a more permanent solution.