Cheetahs live in grasslands in parts of Africa and the Middle East, where the occupy a spot at the top of the food chain, preferring small to midsized prey like hares, gazelles, impala and wildebeast calves. With their exceptional eyesight and lightning speed, they're among the best hunters on the savanna.
"They have a tail that acts like a rudder and can turn them on a dime, and they can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (96.5 kph) in about three seconds, like a sports car," says Marker. "This means cheetah can help feed many other carnivore species on the savanna — lion, leopard, hyena, jackals, wild dogs and vultures."
Cheetah mothers are extremely attentive to their babies. They groom newborn cubs constantly, purring and snuggling them in secluded nests away from any other cheetah for six to eight weeks after birth, with the mother moving the nest every few days to avoid detection by predators. Cheetah cubs remain with their mothers for around a year and a half, playing and learning the cheetah ropes.
"At between 18 and 22 months of age, the cubs will wander off by themselves — females go off on their own to find a mate, but the males stick together, usually for life," says Marker. "The brothers form coalitions that enable them to hunt larger prey, like adult female kudu. Being in a coalition allows them to secure a better territory that will attract females — considerations include better preybase, water and cover for having cubs."