Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals and have unmatched hunting skills when it comes to their speed, agility, and precision reflexes. While their dexterity helps them to outrun danger, it also makes them the smallest big cats, leaving them vulnerable to predation from other predators such as hyenas, lions, eagles, and leopards.
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Sadly, this means that cheetah cubs have a very low survival rate with less than 15% making it to juvenile age – mainly due to the aforementioned predators feeding on these innocent cubs. Human intervention is yet another problem for cheetahs as poaching and killing are among the primary sources of adult mortality.
Lions are true carnivores, and their diet consists mostly of herbivorous animals such as antelope, zebras, buffalo, wildebeest, and giraffes. In this context, lions will rarely if ever actively hunt and kill cheetahs for food. However, lions can and do kill both adult cheetahs and cubs opportunistically when the opportunity arises.
This can happen when a lion is in competition with another predator for the same food source or when it comes upon an easy meal such as unguarded cubs. Cheetah predation by lions will increase during particularly harsh times such as famines or disease outbreaks, where food sources become extremely scarce.
Lions and cheetahs share many similarities in terms of lifestyle and survival strategies.
Not only do they inhabit the same habitats and both prey on mainly antelopes but they are also diurnal species, meaning that they are active during the day. This can lead to a natural competition for resources between them in their habitat.
As climate change, land use patterns, poaching, and other factors create changes to their habitats, it is likely that lions and cheetahs must adapt to new conditions or may even face further problems in their struggle for survival.
Cheetah cubs are helpless in the face of hyenas, as they cannot defend themselves when they are alone while their mother is away. Hyenas gladly take advantage of this vulnerable moment, attacking and killing the cubs with ease. Hyenas will go to any lengths to fill their bellies, resorting to everything from hunting adult cheetahs to scavenging already-dead animals and stealing food stores. T
hey especially enjoy fighting over prey, which leaves cheetahs at an even greater disadvantage as they try to protect their young.
Because the mother cheetah needs to leave her cubs on a daily basis in order to hunt for food when larger animals come along they can be threatened or killed directly. This harsh reality means that up to 75% of cubs in a litter rarely make it past three months of age, and most female cheetahs may only successfully raise two cubs to full maturity in their entire life.
Eagles possess sharp, unflinching eyesight, allowing them to identify their prey with great precision. This formidable vision isn’t just applicable on the ground but can be used in a hunt too – an eagle will patrol the land from up high and if it spots vulnerable or exposed cheetah cubs, it can swoop down rapidly while they are still unaware.
Eagles have powerful talons that help them seize their victims and finish them off with a deadly bite to the neck. While this technique is potent against adults, young cubs for the most part don’t stand a chance due to their size and slower speed than more mature cheetahs.
Indeed, the combination of exceptional speed and airborne agility makes eagles highly proficient hunters, allowing them to easily snatch up most of their prey in just a few swift steps.
To make matters worse, once they make the catch, an eagle can quickly soar off into the sky with its victim firmly held in its talons. In these dire circumstances, mother cheetahs rarely have the advantage as they find themselves unable to outrun such an adept hunter.
Leopards have an impressively broad diet– they take advantage of their opportunistic behaviour and eat small mammals, insects, birds and reptiles. In times of food scarcity, they will even hunt down large animals such as adult cheetahs.
Given this predatorial nature, it is unsurprising that leopards occasionally kill and eat cheetah cubs; however, usually, there appears to be a more strategic motive than hunger. Cheetah cub deaths attributed to leopards seem to be associated with cutting down the competition and demonstrating dominance more so than being a source of readily available food.
This is the hard truth of animal life in the wild— although we may flinch at such events, from the animal’s perspective it makes perfect sense for them to eliminate future threats before those threats become real problems.
Despite its majestic beauty and incredibly unique characteristics of speed and agility, the cheetah is facing a very real crisis due to human activity. Cheetahs are frequently hunted for their fur, skin, and other body parts, as well as their meat. Moreover, surprisingly they are most commonly killed because humans view them as a threat to livestock, even though they tend not to hunt domestic animals.
This influx of hunting has caused the natural habitat of these amazing cats to shrink by 91 per cent – they can now only be found in six African countries. As a result, their population has dwindled to dangerously low levels – 7,100 individuals – forcing them into endangered status. It is clear that we humans must take responsibility for this drastic decline in the cheetah population and work together to aid in their conservation.
How do Cheetahs Protect Themselves?
Cheetahs have some ways of protecting themselves from predators that come in handy. As with most animals, cheetahs’ fur and colouring offer them a degree of camouflage to help them stay hidden when they are trying to avoid notice.
They prefer to live in areas with dense vegetation where they can remain unnoticed and even hide their cubs as needed. But when all else fails, cheetahs can count on their remarkable speed; they can sprint a distance of over 500 feet in just four seconds, reaching top speeds of 68 miles per hour!
This astounding feat gives cheetahs a huge advantage over many of their predators, who simply cannot compete with such speed. This makes cheetahs almost unstoppable when escaping from potential threats due to their superior running speed.
What Are Cheetahs Afraid of?
Cheetahs often keep a low profile for their own safety, as they are the smallest of all the big cats in terms of size and weight. As such, they do not stand much of a chance against larger predators such as lions or leopards.
Moreover, hyenas, which are smaller than cheetahs in size, can be more fierce and have been known to take down animals much larger than themselves. Recognizing that their fight or flight instinct will not serve them well in such situations, cheetahs will usually opt to flee rather than confront their adversaries directly.
While this does mean that cheetahs may not always get their way, it is often the best way for them to stay safe and survive in the wild.
What food do cheetahs eat?
Cheetahs are carnivorous, meaning their diet consists entirely of meat. They consume a variety of prey, including antelopes, gazelles, hares and warthogs which they hunt in the wild.
Does a lion eat cheetahs?
While lions are typically apex predators, eating a wide variety of prey, it is unlikely for them to actively hunt and consume cheetahs. Although there have been observed cases of lion pride predating on a cheetah cub or two, this behaviour is rare.
Do cheetahs eat tigers?
There is no record that a cheetah has ever eaten a tiger, as the latter is simply too large for a cheetah to tackle.
What enemies does a cheetah have?
Cheetahs have few natural enemies due to their falcated speed and agility, but they can still come under attack from larger animals such as lions, hyenas and baboons.
Although the adult cheetah population is largely free of predators and able to live out their lives in relative safety, the same cannot be said for cheetah cubs. These vulnerable and small creatures are easy targets for a multitude of predators including large cats, hyenas, and even eagles.
This combined with human efforts such as poaching has led to an alarming decrease in the overall number of cheetahs in the wild at only 7,100 individuals. Organizations like Cheetah Conservation have subsequently been developed to assist with helping protect these magnificent animals from extinction.
Growing up enjoying the beauty of my village, a good passion for nature developed in me from childhood. Following my passion for the natural world, I have chosen zoology for my graduation, during my undergraduate degree, I participated in many nature trails, bird watching, rescues, training for wildlife conservation, workshop, and seminars on biodiversity. I have a keen interest in invertebrate biology, herpetology, and ornithology. Primary interests include studies on taxonomy, ecology, habitat and behavior.