Cheetah in Swahili: duma (Acinonyx jubatus)
Shoulder height: 70–80 cm; weight: 50–60 kg. This remarkable spotted cat has a greyhound-like build, and is capable of running at 120 km/h (75 mph) in bursts, making it the world’s fastest land animal. It is often seen pacing the plains restlessly, either on its own or in a small family group comprising a mother and her offspring. A diurnal hunter, favouring the cooler hours of the day, the cheetah’s habits have seen adversely affected in areas where there are high tourist concentrations and off-road driving is permitted. Males are territorial, and generally solitary, though in the Serengeti they commonly defend their territory in pairs or trios. Despite superficial similarities, you can easily tell a cheetah from a leopard by its simple spots, disproportionately small head, streamlined build, diagnostic black ‘tear marks’, and preference for relatively open habitats. Widespread, but thinly distributed and increasingly rare outside of conservation areas, the cheetah is most likely to be seen in savannah and arid habitats such as the Serengeti Plains (where sightings are regular on the road to Seronera) and the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater.