Animal: Cheetah
Reasearch Location:

Why this animal?
I find that the Cheetah is one of the most interesting animals to me. The reason being that their speed and agility are more advanced than other animals, it's hard to believe that a Cheetah can run as fast as a car going 60 mph. To me, a Cheetah uses its skills to help it survive as well as for their own uses too. When at top speed, that would be their sprint, they seem to enjoy. I also enjoy sprinting so there is a connection that also intrigues me.

Food Web

Namibia is one of the natural homes of the cheetah, as well as many other animals, but the vegetation in Namibia gives the cheetah good camoflauge for when it chases its unsuspecting prey. Many of the grasses there not only provide camoflauge for animals, but it serves well as food and homes to other animals there too. During the hot summer season there are four types of dominate grasses but in the winter season when they get frost between 0-120 days, there may be only three types of dominate grasses. This would be caused by an adaptation that one of the grasses didn't go through, but the others did. Vegetation there has adapted itself against wild fires and heat but not so much against the cold. In fact the vegetation has adapted so much to the heat that only 10% of the vegetation is destroyed by the fire, and any damaged plants can resprout from the base of the original plant. Animals have also adapted to the land around them and often take advantage of the trees and vegetation around them. Animals like elephants, flamingos, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, lions, and other animals live here as well as the fastest land animal cheetah, and though the lands in Africa seem hot the nights there are relatively cool. The country of Namibia has 300 days of sunshine, and during that time that it doesn't it is raining in heavy thunderstorms. When this happens the dry riverbeds and pools of water become extremely wet and muddy. When the land gets rain is when it usually blooms and truly becomes beautiful and lures animals out for us to observe. These are some of things that Namibia has, and where the Cheetah lives, which is why I'm studying this country.

Wildlife Research Technique
The technique that I use is radio telemety, radio telemetry i when we have a certain amount of towers that are set up over a distance and the animals have collars that are tracked by these towers. The signals from the towers go out in waves like a circle and when they go out and over lap they pinpoint the location of the animals with collars on. When we check the location of animals, it helps us to understand what a cheetah does during the day, we use a beeping signal on the collar also slow for resting, medium for moving, and fast for dead. When the cheetah is dead we can go out and find it and do tests to see the cause of death, and test the blood and take a look at physical appearance, and do other tests on it.

Oberservation Journal 1
The first day that I went out I stayed low to the ground in the grasses looking and searching around the land around me. I went out at 3:00 in the morning, because it is cooler then than during midday in Namibia. I waited and watched, it was dark but the sun would come up in a couple of hours, but besides that Cheetahs would come out in the early morning hours and early evening hours becasue those hours are cooler than during the actual day. Plus they rely on sight so the only cool hours with light are those hours. I knew what I would see before the sun came up, I had done my research, it was just after the rainy season and all the flowers and plants would be blooming and the rivers would be flooded and muddy. Any animal could be coming out for this was the time when the vegetation around them was in bloom and they had easy access for most of the animals there are herbivores. I thought to myself what the Cheetahs favorite food to eat would be, and that was various types of gazelles that would hopefully soon be up and so would the Cheetah. Around 5 A.M. I saw my first Cheetah, it came out, unaware that I was anywhere, and stretched its long thin legs. Its long tail which it used for balancing when running after prey, the semi retractable claws which it flexed. It yawned, it had a small jaw, but that was not uncommon, the Cheetahs small jaw did not allow it to kill its prey with teeth, but rather it suffocates it. Instead of biting it chases down its prey till it is worn out and catches up to and uses its paw to grab hold around the throat and in this way it suffocates it by holding on. I watched it walk onto a termite mound and watched it observe and smell the area for some prey, its ears pricked up as if it heard something. Then it took off, with more speed than any animal on this earth, I was thankful that someone away farther down had filmed it so we could analyze it later. I thought of some of the adaptations that it would have to have in order to survive. One them being its claws, they help it to keep traction when running, and one of there natural instincts is to run not in a straight line so the sharp turns that it take are mainly do to the traction that its claws have. Another one would be its pointed rough pads that are on the back of its front paws, this helps it to stop almost immediately for when it attacks the animal its still going at high speed this helps it to slow down quickly so as to not lose the prey it attacked. It also has large naval cavaties to help it take in more air when running and keep up the speed. when chasing, some cheetahs have color variations in spots, as in darker or lighter to help with camoflauge. The black streaks down their eyes are to help stop the glare from the sun, just like football players, this helps especially when chasing prey during the day. So I had seen my first cheetah of the day, I would see more later that day, but for now I had to go and look at the footage.

Fellow Researcher Profile - Laurie Marker
A fellow researcher, named Laurie Marker is one of the most established cheetah researchers, she has started a foundation and a orphanage for orphan cheetahs when they have no mother. She is one of the few cheetah researchers and is one of the main reasons that we know so much about cheetahs. She started the CCF which is the Cheetah Conservation Fund, she has set up in Namibia and has studied them for years. Abserving their behaviors and physical appearances, she is also one of the reasons that we know why cheetahs have a hard time reproducing. This was a major thing because cheetahs are an endangered species, cheetahs cannot reproduce because they all have the same genes, which baffles them but now they know why cheetah babies tend to have birth defects and don't live very long. Lauire Marker has also helped convince farmers why they shouldn't kill cheetahs, when they come around the livestock, they are just looking for food. Laurie Marker went to Namibia in 1977 and brought a captive born cheetah with her to see if a captive born cheetah had to be taught to hunt or if it was all instinctual. This was a first time thing and this would help them to research and to see if they could send captive born cheetahs back into the wild. She is also the starter of a captive cheetah breeding program while she was in North America for 16 years at Oregon's wildlife Safari in the USA. She was pronounced as a hero of the world in 2000 for helping to save the cheetahs. Laurie Marker has many many many rewards for all of the work that she has done. She continues to do work in Namibia and has a her doctorate from Oxford University.

Obeservation Journal #2
On another day observing cheetahs, we had a hidden camera hidden in some brush set up all day to catch any footage of any cheetahs, not only would we have that buy we also had the collars that some of them had on so we could track them. Later when the towers were working we were checking up on some of the cheetahs. We were getting medium beeps so that meant some of our cheetahs were moving. So we were watching the computer as the cheetah was moving, we wondered if it was on a hunt with a couple other cheetahs. We knew that cheetahs sometimes hunt together to kill a larger animal, and that tends to happen with males bacause males stick to groups but a female goes out on her own except for mating season. One of the other guys called us out because they spotted a cheetah nearby. We went out to our post to see it, I knew this cheetah was one of ours, by its collar and the computer had said one was close. So we watched it, it moved around standing on a termite mound to get a better look around, I could see its large naval cavaties taking in air, and its breathing was large, and its rough fur. Its tail that is actually flat to help it balance while running. It started smelling and took off for its prey, from 0 to 70mph in 4 seconds it can catch its prey quickly. In a cheetahs day it will hunt in the early morning or dusk to hunt for food, the rest of the day they are either resting, or in a female with babies case, moving the cubs around so they cannot be found or scented by other predators. Cheetahs don't usually get to keep all of their prey after they kill it. They cannot eat all of it fast enough to keep it safe from other predators, or if it is to big to move it other animals come and take it from them. Cheetahs have a commensalistic relationship with other animals, a commensalistic relationship is when both animals are happy but one is not really benefiting. Which is the cheetahs case, it becomes happy with its own food that it gets, until the other animal comes and takes it from them, and makes that animal happy, but the cheetah is not benefiting from this. This happens on a regular basis for the cheetah, and sometimes they cannot get it back to feed their cubs. We continued tracking the cheetah and by now the beeps were slow which meant that it must have killed its prey and was now dead and it was eating. Then it started moving again which meant that another animal must have come and tried to take it, and since a cheetah becomes exhausted after running 70 mph for about 75 seconds. So it would not have the strength to fight back and the animal would be able to take the carcass from the cheetah.

Observation Journal 3
Some of my final days in Namibia were some of the greatest where we actually followed some of the cheetahs, but because they can take off so fast we took what we called a mule, also known as a gator or another vehicle you would take. Following in the brush wasn't easy but watching the cheetah was amazing. At night we would set up tents, and be wrapped in warm blankets around a small fire, because even though it is the sahara, at night where there is no sun it becomes cold. Every morning we got up at 4:30 so we could follow the cheetah, because cheetahs move in the morning before it gets hot but they will hunt during the day too and at dusk before it gets too dark. We watched how it walked up on the termite mound and looked around and smelled. Before long it took off running and we followed it as best we could. Watching its graceful legs pump so fast, watching it breath and chase down its prey. We managed to get to see it kill its prey, it caught up beside the gazelle and caught it and wrapped and hooked its paw in it. This particular cheetah we knew to be one of ours named Duma which is swahili for cheetah, ironic, but thats what we named it. We watched Duma hold on and suffocate it, and after it was dead, Duma was exhausted but was eating, ten minutes later another animal, the lion, came up to try and take Duma's food. Duma tried to fight back but it wasn't working so he let the lion take it. Not only did we see Duma in our last days following cheetahs, we saw Shira, Nzingha, Arrow, Kovu, Simba, Mufasa, Nooka, and Lightning, which wasn't surprising to see that group together, but we were fortunate to see three females, because females are loners and harder to spot. The day we went back, it seemed like every cheetah showed up, a bunch of the cheetahs with collars were there, and my special three that I bonded with were there, Shira, Nzingha, and Arrow. When we left I felt happy that now I knew a heck of a lot more about cheetahs, and I knew that I would be coming back someday and might see them again.

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