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Big Five Safari at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

Big Five Safari at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve near Montagu on Route 62 in South Africa.

Cheetahs on the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

In 2003 four cheetahs were released on the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. This used to be the first in the Klein Karoo. Cheetahs are really special animals. Each one has their own individual character. In August 2004 the female gave birth to a litter of four, high up in the mountains.

One of her female cubs is still roaming free in the Reserve and she is an incredibly good hunter, provider and good mother to all her cups. She is very relaxed around humans and the rangers can take guests on foot within ten meters.

I met the female during the first quarter of 2012, when she raised five cubs on the southern side of the Reserve. She is the breeding pioneer of Sanbona where she roams the entire fifty four thousand hectare Reserve, from the southern- to the northern gate. Besides the white lions, she booked her place on the Reserve and is now the proud face of Sanbona. She also had several other litters and raised her cubs with great success. Due to that Sanbona received the status as a leading Reserve with regards to breeding cheetahs.

Cheetahs are not considered social cats like lions but they do prefer to live in family groups (i.e. a female with her most recent litter) or in the case of the males, to co-operate as coalitions to reinforce their strength against other males.


The cheetah has a small head with high-set eyes. Black "tear marks" running from the corner of its eyes down the sides of the nose to its mouth keep sunlight out of its eyes and aid in hunting and seeing long distances.They also have black spots covering the body rather than the rosettes characteristics of leopards.

Its thin and fragile body make it well-suited to short bursts of high speed, but not to long-distance running.The cheetah is the fastest land animal — as fast as 112 to 120 km/h, in short bursts covering distances up to 500 m and has the ability to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in three seconds.This cat is also notable for modifications in the species' paws. It is one of the few felids with semi-retractable claws.

Adaptations that enable the cheetah to run as fast as it does include large nostrils that allow for increased oxygen intake, and an enlarged heart and lungs that work together to circulate oxygen efficiently. During a typical chase, its respiratory rate increases from 60 to 150 breaths per minute. While running, in addition to having good traction due to its semi-retractable claws, the cheetah uses its tail as a rudder-like means of steering, to allow it to make sharp turns, necessary to outflank prey animals that often make such turns to escape.

Cheetahs on Sanbona

The cheetah is a carnivore, eating mostly mammals under 40 kg. The young of larger mammals such as wildebeests and zebras are taken at times, and adults too, when cheetahs hunt in groups. While the other big cats often hunt by night, the cheetah is a diumal hunter. It hunts usually either early in the morning or later in the evening when it is not so hot, but there is still enough light.

The cheetah hunts by vision rather than by scent. Prey is stalked to within 10–30 m, then chased. This is usually over in less than a minute, and if the cheetah fails to make a catch quickly, it will give up. The cheetah has an average hunting success rate of around 50%.
Running at very high speeds puts a great deal of strain on the cheetah's body. When sprinting, the cheetah's body temperature quickly elevates. If it is a hard chase, it sometimes needs to rest for half an hour or more.

The cheetah kills its prey by tripping it during the chase, then biting it on the underside of the throat to suffocate it; the cheetah is not strong enough to break the necks of most prey. The bite may also puncture a vital arteryin the neck. Then the cheetah proceeds to devour its catch as quickly as possible before the kill is taken by stronger predators. The life span of a cheetah in the wild lies between 12-16 years.



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