Mau is our resident cheetah! He is almost 12 years old and has been with us since he was only five months old. Cheetahs are notably the world’s fastest land mammal and the most endangered African cat.
So how do cheetahs reach such high speeds? They have several adaptations that allow them to reach speeds up to 70mph. They have an extremely flexible spine, giving cheetahs the ability to take a longer stride. Their shoulder blades are not attached to the collarbone, also enabling the shoulders to move more freely. Finally, the hips pivot to permit the back legs to stretch farther apart when the body is fully extended. Unlike other cats, cheetahs have only semi-retractable claws and have harder, less rounded paw pads to allow for better traction, like the cleats of a track shoe. The cheetah’s tail is long and powerful so it can act as a rudder, stabilizing and acting as a counterweight so the cheetah can make sharp, sudden turns. All of these features combined enable cheetahs to have strides up to 23 feet with about four strides a second. Now that’s fast!
Unfortunately, cheetahs face multiple conservation issues in the wild. Habitat loss and fragmentation is a major concern in developing areas of Africa, as is interaction with humans. Livestock owners often unfairly blame cheetahs for the kills made by other large predators, such as hyenas, leopards and lions, resulting in the farmers trapping or shooting the cheetah. Illegal wildlife trading also contributes to a depleted cheetah population because cheetah cubs are being captured from the wild and smuggled out of Africa to become pets. They also face extreme competition from other African predators, who can often overpower a cheetah. Sadly, the result of these factors has been a decreased population, with only about 10,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild.
Luckily here at the sanctuary, Mau leads a good life. He can be found roaming around his habitat or lounging in the shade. Please come out and enjoy a tour where you can learn all about our animals and hopefully you can catch a glimpse of Mau!