The Majestic Cheetah in Morocco
Most of us will be familiar with the graceful spotted cat known as the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). We will have likely seen images of this amazing creature on our televisions or may have even seen one or two at the local zoo. What few of us know, however, is that the cheetah is listed as a ‘vulnerable species’ on the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Red List. This enchanting cat has been steadily decreasing in numbers since the 20th century and today it is estimated that only about 12 400 cheetahs continue to exist in the wild. These cats are spread out over 25 different African countries. Despite the fact that these cats have been successfully bred at cheetah centers and zoos around the world, little can be done to improve the numbers of these cats in the wild.
The beautiful cheetah is a poor climber and does not make use of trees as do other members of the cat family. It hunts by speed and stealth and is capable of reaching incredible speeds in an incredibly short period of time. In fact, when the cheetah bursts into action, it can go from 0 to 110 km/h in just three seconds. What’s more, it can maintain speeds of 105 km/h for up to 460 meters. This is usually all that is needed for the cheetah to successfully hunt gazelle and other prey. The cheetah is easy to recognize since, not only does it have long legs, a slender body and a small head, but it has black ‘tear marks’ running from the bottom of its eyes down the sides of its snout to the bottom of its mouth. Of course the cheetah also has spots. A cheetah’s spots are small and circular and seem to fall in a very random pattern. The underside of the cat is white and tail tip will usually be black with a white tuft at the very end of it.
The Northwest African cheetah is one of the rarest and least studied of all of the mammals that roam this part of Africa. Though it once roamed the area in reasonably large numbers, massive decreases in the availability of prey and aggressive hunting of the cheetah itself has led to it becoming extinct in many different parts of North Africa. Still, it continues to remain in several North African countries – namely Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and possibly Libya. Because these animals are so secretive it is difficult to study them in the wild accurately. However, their presence is usually indicated by things such as tracks, droppings, vegetation scratches, skins and shed hair. Though no cheetahs have been spotted by scientists in Morocco of late, local nomads have confirmed the existence of several cheetahs in the country. If you are fortunate, maybe you will be able to see one of these amazing creatures in the wild the next time you visit the country. Cheetahs in Morocco are very rare, but the importance of their continued existence simply cannot be overlooked.