I was jabbering to my co-teachers the other day about the differences between lions and cheetahs. There's apparently some campaigns underway to save some endangered lions (? if they're not indian or marsupial (heh
), then they're not THAT endangered), and I was of the opinion that cheetahs probably needed more help. So, cheetahs.
- Cheetahs are inbred. They're apparently inbred because all the strains of non-current cheetah died off about ten thousand years ago. I don't know what it was that the cheetahs we have now had that they didn't, but whatever it is it's probably not currently relevant. Anyhow, being as inbred as they are, disease can wipe them out with impunity. The inbreeding is only getting worse, too, because of their range requirements (lots) and their hunting/living predilections (mostly solo). If they kept the territory needs but instead lived in prides, more cheetahs could fit into any given area of land. This would presumably give them more opportunity to meet non-family members. A pride kind of setup would also help protect against co-predators and scavengers like leopards and hyenas.
- Cheetahs have an uninterruptible hunting motor pattern sequence. This is super bad. Their motor pattern chain goes like this, roughly: chase, trip, bite, dissect, eat. If this chain is disrupted, say by a hyena trying to steal the cheetah's newly killed prey, or by a human driving by in a jeep, the cheetah will leave. He can't come back and get the food later, even if everything else who might want to eat that kill isn't in the way, because to that cheetah, that dead lump of meat isn't really food. It's just lying there. If he hasn't just gotten finished chasing it, it's not edible (except, sometimes, under threat of complete starvation). This obviously is not great for the cheetah, who's not exactly a powerhouse against lions or hyenas or even vultures.
I can only assume that cheetahs are able to eat inanimate meat while they're cubs, or else they'd be already extinct. They must lose that ability at some point.
Leopards can cache food in trees (and they eat in trees, keeping their food away from other creatures). Lions eat whatever, and hunt in groups. Hyenas especially eat whatever, including cubs of predators and whatever the hell they find lying around. Everyone's so much better off than cheetahs that I wonder that we still have any of them.
- Oh, also: people hunt cheetahs. They hunt other animals too, but they probably hunt cheetahs specifically because they'll go after livestock fairly readily (since they likely end up desperate more often than other predators). They also have such range that they get near livestock more often, as well. (There's a guard dog project
involved!) in place, so that, since a cheetah will never voluntarily go near a large dog, the cheetahs don't have to be shot by jittery ranchers. At least someone's trying.)