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suzi eszterhas spent over two years following three cheetah families in kenya’s masai mara. her photos are chronicled in “a future for cheetahs.” here we see two mothers, one with her five twelve-day old cubs (2,3,6-9) and one with her six week old cub (1,4,5). 

at birth, the tiny cubs are blind and weigh about 250 to 425 grams. they will live in a secluded den for the next six to eight weeks, being moved by their mom regularly from nest site to nest site to avoid predators.

the mortality rate for cheetahs under three months of age is 95 percent, and sadly all five of the cubs seen at twelve days old would die within the next week from predation by jackals and birds of prey. happily, the six week old cub seen here survived.

unlike other big cats, cheetahs rely entirely on their speed for defence. as an evolutionary trade off for this speed, cheetahs have small canine teeth — which allows for a larger nasal passage to take in more air when running — and dull, small claws — which is  great for running but so much for fighting.  this leaves slower cheetah cubs vulnerable to lions, leopard and hyenas, in addition to the aforementioned jackals and birds of prey.

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hannes lochner (previously featured) spent two years and traveled over 100,000 km in the kalahari to document the nocturnal world of its animals. he slept in sweltering day heat, was stung by countless scorpions, and spent up to twenty hours a day in the field, which included sub zero night time winter temperatures.

hannes loves big cats, but notes that “due to the extreme rise and fall in temperature, you only get an hour at night and in the early morning to get pictures of the cats actually doing something. otherwise it is too hot.”

he adds, “the kalahari is very harsh and dry. there are extreme arid regions where only the fittest survive. i saw so many lions dying and cubs being left behind because food was so scarce. it is a difficult environment.”

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safari photos of cheetahs by (click pic) marc mol and bobby jo clow in tanzania’s serengeti national park and david newton and elmar weiss in kenya’s masai mara. unlike the other big cats, cheetahs don’t have an aggressive nature and are quite docile. 

but sadly, it is estimated that only five to ten thousand cheetahs may still be living in the wild, which is a 90 percent decline in the past 120 years. cheetahs require vast expanses of land for hunting, but now, thanks largely to human encroachment, can only be found in 23 percent of their historic range.

So I'm learning about Cheetah's in my Biology of East Africa class

and about halfway through my class someone knocks on the door and the professor says “I thought you guys would want to see cheetah’s” so we all laugh thinking he’s kidding.

But he wasn’t

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and these zookeepers bring these two 6 month old cheetahs into class

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I got to pet a baby cheetah

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I don’t even know how to process this guys 

They were purring and licking each other and I can’t even!

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