Shoulder height 70–80cm. Weight 50–60kg.
This remarkable spotted cat has a greyhound-like build, and is capable of running at 70km per hour in bursts, making it the world's fastest land animal. Despite superficial similarities, you can easily tell a cheetah from a leopard by the former's simple spots, disproportionately small head, streamlined build, diagnostic black tearmarks, and preference for relatively open habitats. It is often seen pacing the plains restlessly, either on its own or in a small family group consisting of a mother and her offspring. Diurnal hunters, cheetah favour the cooler hours of the day to hunt smaller antelope, like steenbok and duiker, and small mammals like scrub hares.
Zambia has a small but growing population of cheetah, centred on Kafue National Park. They're very rare in the Luangwa, and have recently been reintroduced into the Lower Zambezi (though with mixed success).Similar species
) is smaller than a cheetah (shoulder height 55cm) but has a similar build and black-on-gold spots giving way to streaking near the head. Seldom seen, it is widespread and quite common in moist grassland, reedbeds and riverine habitats throughout Africa, including Zambia. It does particularly well in some of the swampier areas, and Lechwe Lodge reports a particularly high number of them, attracted by the prevalence of cane rats in the Kafue River. Servals prey on mice, rats and small mammals, but will sometimes take the young of small antelope.