The cheetah, also known as the hunting leopard, is a big cat that occurs mainly in eastern and southern Africa and a few parts of Iran. The only extant member of the genus Acinonyx, the cheetah was first described by Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1775. The cheetah is characterised by a slender body, deep chest, spotted coat, a small rounded head, black tear-like streaks on the face, long thin legs and a long spotted tail. Its lightly built, thin form is in sharp contrast with the robust build of the other big cats. The cheetah reaches nearly 70 to 90 centimetres (28 to 35 in) at the shoulder, and weighs 21–72 kg (46–159 lb). While it is taller than the leopard, it is notably smaller than the lion. Basically yellowish tan or rufous to greyish white, the coat is uniformly covered with nearly 2,000 solid black spots.
Cheetah are active mainly during the day; hunting is the major activity. Adult males are sociable despite their territoriality, forming groups called “coalitions”. Females are not territorial; they may be solitary or live with their offspring in home ranges. Carnivores, cheetah mainly prey upon antelopes and gazelles. They will stalk their prey to within 100–300 metres (330–980 ft), charge towards it and kill it by tripping it during the chase and biting its throat to suffocate it to death. The cheetah’s body is specialised for speed; it is the fastest land animal. The speed of a hunting cheetah averages 64 km/h (40 mph) during a sprint; the chase is interspersed with a few short bursts of speed, when the animal can clock 112 km/h (70 mph). Induced ovulators, breeding in cheetah occurs throughout the year. Gestation is nearly three months long, resulting in a litter of typically three to five cubs (the number can vary from one to eight). Weaning occurs at six months; siblings tend to stay together for some time. Cheetah cubs face higher mortality than most other mammals, especially in the Serengeti region. Cheetah inhabit a variety of habitats – dry forests, scrub forests and savannahs.
Classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN, the cheetah has suffered a substantial decline in its historic range due to rampant hunting in the 20th century. Several African countries have taken steps to improve the standards of cheetah conservation. Thanks to its prowess at hunting, the cheetah was tamed and used to kill game at hunts in the past. The animal has been widely depicted in art, literature, advertising and animation.
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The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the largest cat species, most recognisable for their pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with a lighter underside. The largest tigers have reached a total body length of up to 3.38 m (11.1 ft) over curves and have weighed up to 388.7 kg (857 lb) in the wild. The species is classified in the genus Panthera with the lion, leopard, jaguar and snow leopard. Tigers are apex predators, primarily preying on ungulates such as deer and bovids. They are territorial and generally solitary but social animals, often requiring large contiguous areas of habitat that support their prey requirements. This, coupled with the fact that they are indigenous to some of the more densely populated places on Earth, has caused significant conflicts with humans.
Tigers once ranged widely across Asia, from Turkey in the west to the eastern coast of Russia. Over the past 100 years, they have lost 93% of their historic range, and have been extirpated from southwest and central Asia, from the islands of Java and Bali, and from large areas of Southeast and Eastern Asia. Today, they range from the Siberian taiga to open grasslands and tropical mangrove swamps. The remaining six tiger subspecies have been classified as endangered by IUCN. The global population in the wild is estimated to number between 3,062 and 3,948 individuals, down from around 100,000 at the start of the 20th century, with most remaining populations occurring in small pockets isolated from each other, of which about 2,000 exist on the Indian subcontinent. A 2016 global census estimated the population of wild tigers at approximately 3,890 individuals. Major reasons for population decline include habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation and poaching. The extent of area occupied by tigers is estimated at less than 1,184,911 km2 (457,497 sq mi), a 41% decline from the area estimated in the mid-1990s. In 2016, wildlife conservation group at WWF declared that world’s count of wild tigers has risen for the first time in a century.
Tigers are among the most recognisable and popular of the world’s charismatic megafauna. They have featured prominently in ancient mythology and folklore, and continue to be depicted in modern films and literature. They appear on many flags, coats of arms, and as mascots for sporting teams. The tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and South K