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Spidi: Male, born September 16, 2001 at the Cango Wildlife Ranch in South Africa. He originally arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo on April 2, 2003, although he spent three years (2012-2015) meeting and greeting female cheetahs in Ohio. We’re glad to have him back! Spidi is currently on exhibit.
Nyika: Female, born April 22, 2000 at the Wassenaar Wildlife Breeding Centre in the Netherlands. She arrived at Philadelphia Zoo on April 10, 2012. Nyika is currently in the back yard, but you can sometimes see her through a window in the fence. Once Spidi has settled down following his return from Ohio, he and Nyika will be introduced and will share the main exhibit.
Most active in the early morning.
Cheetah Exhibit at south end Zoo—next to the maned wolves.
The cheetah has a small head, high set eyes and small, flattened ears. It has distinctive tear stripes from the corner of its eyes down the side of its nose. The cheetah's legs are very long in relation to their body, and their back is very flexible. The cheetah's habitat varies from semi-desert to open grasslands and thick bush.
A typical lifespan for cheetahs in zoos is 12-15 years. The lifespan for this cat in the wild may be 10-12 years.
Cheetahs breed throughout the year, and their gestation lasts 91-95 days. Litter size can range from 3-5 cubs. A cub’s birth weight is 5.3 to 14 ounces (150-400 kg). It may take 5-10 days to open their eyes. Cheetahs reach sexual maturity at about 21 months.
Except for lions, cheetahs are more social than any other big cat. Although females are solitary, males often live in groups. Cats from the same litter tend to remain together with unrelated males sometimes joining the group.
The cheetah is the fastest mammal on land, capable of speed burst of up to 70 mph (112 kph). Their body has many adapted features for achieving this speed; large thigh muscles, long limbs, tightly bound tibia and fibula, reduced clavicle and a flexible spine for increased stride length. The cheetah can maintain this high speed for approximately 300 yards (274 m). They have blunt, partly curved, unsheathed claws which provide additional traction during rapid acceleration.
The cheetah has small upper canine teeth with small roots on the side of its nasal passages. This enables the cheetah to breath while maintaining a suffocating bite. The cheetah hunts and eats late in the morning and early in the evening, thus avoiding conflict with lions and leopards that hunt at other times.
Males are slightly larger than females.
A cheetah may weigh between 37-110 pounds(17-50 kg).
Cheetahs are strict carnivores, meaning they only eat meat. In the wild cheetahs typically hunt in the early morning and just before dusk, they will take a variety of prey, but most commonly they pick the young and the weak. At the Zoo, cheetahs are fed a base diet that includes a commercial raw meat mix which contains the nutrients essential for the animal’s well being. Solid beef is added to the diet for training and beef long bones are offered for the cats to chew on and carry around. The bones provide an enjoyed activity for the animals while strengthening their jaw muscles.
Cheetahs are found in the continent of Africa, south of the Sahara—with the largest concentration in Namibia. Cheetahs are also found in Iran.
On the 2011 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the cheetah is listed as Vulnerable.
The Philadelphia Zoo works with partners and colleagues around the world to save wildlife. From South America to Asia to Africa, these projects are conducting research, protecting habitat, educating communities and building capacity. We are proud to support them and the important work they do.
The cheetah is the most endangered cat in Africa, mainly due to loss of habitat and conflict with humans. Most cheetahs in the wild are living on private land and often considered to be a threat to livestock, which is the farmer’s livelihood.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) conducts long-term studies to help understand cheetah health, genetics, biology and reproduction. These studies help develop education and conservation programs such as the “Livestock Guardian Dogs Program,” where dogs are raised and trained by CCF and given to local farmers for use in protecting their flocks from cheetahs. This preventative measure often stops farmers from killing cheetahs.
In 2009, a border collie named Finn was trained by Philadelphia Zoo staff to locate cheetah “scat” by scent. Once training was complete, Finn traveled to Namibia to launch another highly successful CCF initiative, the “Scat Detection Dog Program.” Today Finn continues to help CCF researchers find scat, from which they extract DNA to identify individual cheetahs and understand their population structure.
Nambia, Africa: Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF)
To learn more about the conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo, click here.
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