Northwest African cheetah

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Northwest African cheetah
A cheetah at Termit Massif, Niger
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Acinonyx
A. j. hecki[1]
Trinomial name
Acinonyx jubatus hecki[1]
Acinonyx jubatus subspecies range.png
A. j. hecki range      historical     today

A. j. senegalensis (Blainville, 1843)

The Northwest African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki), also known as the Saharan cheetah, is a cheetah subspecies native to the Sahara desert and the Sahel. It is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. In 2008, the population was suspected to number less than 250 mature individuals.[2]

The Northwest African cheetah was described by German zoologist Max Hilzheimer in 1913 under the scientific name Acinonyx hecki.[3]


Felis jubata senegalensis was described by Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville in 1843 based on a cheetah from Senegal.[4] As this name was preoccupied, it is considered synonymous with A. j. hecki.[5][1]

Acinonyx hecki was the scientific name proposed by Max Hilzheimer in 1913, based upon a captive cheetah in the Berlin Zoological Garden that also originated in Senegal.[3]


The Northwest African cheetah is quite different in appearance from the other African cheetahs. Its coat is shorter and nearly white in color, with spots that fade from black over the spine to light brown on the legs. The face has few or even no spots, and the tear stripes (dark stripes running from the medial canthus of each eye down the side of the muzzle to the corner of the mouth) are often missing. The body shape is basically the same as that of the sub-Saharan cheetah, except that it is somewhat smaller.[3]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The Saharan cheetah ranges in the western and central Sahara desert and the Sahel in small, fragmented populations. Between August 2008 and November 2010, four individuals were recorded by camera traps in Ahaggar Cultural Park located in south central Algeria.[6] Based on data from 2007 to 2012, the cheetah population in West, Central and North Africa has been estimated at 457 individuals in an area of 1,037,322 km2 (400,512 sq mi), including 238 cheetahs in Central African Republic and Chad, 191 cheetahs in Algeria and Mali, and 25 cheetahs in the transboundary W, Arli, and Pendjari protected area complex in Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger.[7] In Niger, populations occur in the northern parts of the country in the Ténéré desert and in the southern savanna region of W National Park. Records in Togo date to the 1970s. The Saharan cheetah is thought to be regionally extinct in Morocco, Western Sahara, Senegal, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.[2]

In Mali, cheetahs were sighted in Adrar des Ifoghas and in the Kidal Region in the 1990s.[8] In 2010, a cheetah was photographed in Niger's Termit Massif by a camera trap.[9]

No cheetah was recorded in the North Province, Cameroon during a survey carried out between January 2008 and May 2010.[10]

Behavior and ecology[edit]

In the Sahara desert, day-time temperature exceeds 40 °C (104 °F), water is scarce and rainfall irregular. Two camera trapping surveys in the Ahaggar massif revealed that cheetahs in this area exhibit several behavioral adaptations to this harsh climate: they are predominantly nocturnal and active between sunset and early mornings; they travel larger distances and occur at a lower density than cheetahs living in savannas.[6]

The main prey of the Northwest African cheetah are antelopes which have adapted to an arid environment, such as the addax, Dorcas gazelle, rhim gazelle, and dama gazelle. It also preys on smaller mammals such as hares. Cheetahs can subsist without direct access to water, obtaining water indirectly from the blood of their prey.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 533. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ a b c Belbachir, F. (2008). "Acinonyx jubatus ssp. hecki". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2008: e.T221A13035738. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T221A13035738.en.
  3. ^ a b c Hilzheimer, M. (1913). "Über neue Gepparden nebst Bemerkungen über die Nomenklatur dieser Tiere". Sitzungsberichte der Gesellschaft Naturforschender Freunde zu Berlin (5): 283−292.
  4. ^ Allen, G. M. (1939). "Acinonyx Brookes. Cheetahs". A Checklist of African Mammals. Cambridge: Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College 83. pp. 232–234.
  5. ^ Rosevear, D.R. (1974). "Acinonyx jubatus (Schreber)". The carnivores of West Africa. London: Natural History Museum. pp. 493–511.
  6. ^ a b Belbachir, F.; Pettorelli, N.; Wacher, T.; Belbachir-Bazi, A.; Durant, S.M. (2015). "Monitoring rarity: the critically endangered Saharan cheetah as a flagship species for a threatened ecosystem". PLoS One. 10 (1): e0115136. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115136. PMC 4309643. PMID 25629400.
  7. ^ Durant, S. M.; Mitchell, N.; Groom, R.; Pettorelli, N.; Ipavec, A.; Jacobson, A. P.; Woodroffe, R.; Böhm, M.; Hunter, L. T.; Becker, M. S.; Broekhuis, F.; Bashir, S.; Andresen, L.; Aschenborn, O.; Beddiaf, M.; Belbachir, F. (2017). "The global decline of cheetah Acinonyx jubatus and what it means for conservation". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 114 (3): 528−533. doi:10.1073/pnas.1611122114. PMC 5255576.
  8. ^ Drieux-Dumont, A.-M. (2002). "Etude préliminaire du statut du guépard du Sahara (Acinonyx jubatus), Adrar des Iforas, Mali". In Chapron, G.; Moutou, F. (eds.). L'Etude et la conservation des carnivores. Paris, France: Société Française pour l'Etude et la Protection des Mammifères.
  9. ^ Walker, M. (2010). 'Ghostly' Saharan cheetah filmed in Niger, Africa. BBC Earth News, 23 December 2010.
  10. ^ de Iongh, H.H., Croes, B., Rasmussen, G., Buij, R. and Funston, P. (2011). "The status of cheetah and African wild dog in the Benoue Ecosystem, North Cameroon" (PDF). Cat News. 55: 29−31.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ Hayward, M.W.; Hofmeyr, M.; O'Brien, J.; Kerley, G.I.H. (2006). "Prey preferences of the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) (Felidae: Carnivora): morphological limitations or the need to capture rapidly consumable prey before kleptoparasites arrive?". Journal of Zoology. 270 (4): 615–27. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2006.00184.x.

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