The fastest land animal on the planet, with top speeds of 60 mph, cheetahs hunt in open grasslands, where their speed can be used in full force. Photo Jochem Wijnands
Cheetahs use tall grass for cover and their sprinting speed for the kill, but only half of their chases end in success. They may be fast, but can only maintain their top speed of about 60 mph in bursts of no more than 60 seconds and usually under half that. Speeds of around 30 mph are more normal, but still impressive. Hunting in the late morning and early evening, they kill their prey with a bite to the neck. They need to eat quickly before more aggressive carnivores chase them off.
They are solitary animals, with females raising their cubs by themselves. Cheetahs communicate with each another via scent marking and the trees used for this are called play trees. Think of it as a post office where cheetahs go to pick up and send messages.
Photographers love play trees because cheetahs visit frequently, as do biologists. It helps the scientists to study the big cat’s behavior and to estimate the population – which has fallen to around an estimated 7,000 in the wild in Africa.