INVESTIGATIONS ON THE DIGESTION BY CHEETAH
by Herbert Kogler

(Summary)

Project Paper for the
B.Sc.(Hons.) Wildlife Management
degree
Rather little is known about the digestion by cheetah, though there arose already several breeding stations in the last decades, enabling research on the different physiological mechanisms.

In the wilderness cheetahs usually make an average kill once in a 10 days. Cheetahs usually don't feed a second time from one carcass. This seems rather infrequent, indicating a very intensive utilisation of food.

The present study was done to investigate on some physiological parameters of cheetahs' digestion. Six captive individuals at a cheetah farm were used for this research. The nutritional situation in those captive animals is rather different from the wilderness situation, though a general study on the digestion should allow general conclusions.

Divergent opinions were published on the hunting behavior of cheetahs in various papers. None of these observations seem to be wrong, as the cheetah is rather flexible in his way of catching a prey. Solitary hunting occurs as well as hunting in organized groups. Especially when catching larger species such as waterbuck or giraffe they form a larger group. The success percentage rate is rather low.

Cheetah show a very high utilisatiion of their food. A daily defaecation occurs rather rarely; in many cases of this investigation the reason for this is their more or less severe suffering from diorrhy. These symptoms lasted in some cases over a longer period of time and gave therefore problems to the investigations too.

The numerous tables and graphs of the paper give detailed informations on defaecation time, food intake, feeding time, faeces mass, alterations in the cheetahs' weight etc.

The act of killing is somehow a strangulation, therefore it needs a rather long time.

The prey may be eaten in the place of the kill, but is rather often carried away to a safer place. Cheetahs eat very rapidly, because they are often chased away by other predators.

Thea don't eat again from a kill, even when they have been chased away for a rather short time.

Cheetahs usually eat the ventral muscles of the prey first, followed by the lever and the heart. Bones and skin are only eaten in very small prey animals.

Hunting in denser bushveld is rather difficult; cheetahs there prefer to hunt early in the morning and late in the evening. The night is avoided for hunting, but cheetahs may continue with feeding after sunset.

Cheetahs approach to their prey rather visible. From a distance of about 100m they start with their chase, maintaining their maximal speed for ca. 300-400m.