African BIG CATS
The beauty and wonder of the African big cats – Lions, Leopards and Cheetahs may always amaze. Africa’s top predators are however all endangered. Diminishing habitat, poaching, and reducing numbers of prey continue to impact on the population of all big cats.
African Big Cats – Lions, Cheetah, Leopard.
Lion (Panthera leo)
The Lion considered the most majestic of cats. Simba, (meaning king in Swahili) is one of the largest cats once common throughout Africa and Asia. The smaller Asiatic lion is now almost extinct, and the African lion also continues to decline. While the male lion may look majestic it is the behaviour of the pride and female lions that give this cat a true sense of wonder. Female cats will work together during a hunt to bring down the largest of prey including the Buffalo. These cats are social and females of the pride assist in the rearing of young lion cubs. The Lion may be symbolic of the African wilderness but its continuing decline indicates the seriousness of the demise of African ecosystems.
Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)
The Cheetah is built for speed and the sight of a cheetah at speed is exhilarating. Capable of reaching speeds of 68 miles per hour and accelerating from 0 to 64 in approximately 3 seconds the Cheetah is our fastest land mammal. These cats prey on smaller mammals from hare to gazelle such as the Thomsons Gazelle. The speed of a Cheetah may be an advantage, but this speed comes at a cost which is reflected in the cheetahs hunting. This sleek cat does not have the strength to bring down large prey. Being one of our smaller cats, the Cheetah, also lacks the stamina to sustain great speeds over long distance. The method of hunting developed by the Cheetah compensates for these weaknesses. The Cheetah uses stealth and cover to get close to prey then deploys its famous chase, trip, kill technique. In the wild the Cheetah is a shy and timid cat easily intimidated from kills by other competing carnivores. The Cheetah needs a wide range of undisturbed land with sufficient wild prey to survive. Suitable habitats are becoming increasingly scarce and conflict with humans more common.
African Leopard (Panthera pardus pardus)
Leopards are one the most adaptable of the big cats. The African leopard is one of nine subspecies of leopard once common throughout Africa and Asia. The leopard, like most cats, tends to be a solitary hunter. The beauty of its marked coat resulted in vast numbers being killed for its popular fur. Today hunting for skins may be less common but it is believed that skins are still commonly sold from parts of Africa. The African Leopard is listed as a “Near Threatened” due to diminishing range and population and the population continues to decline.