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african cheetahs

Helen and Stef Answer Your Questions on Cheetahs & Wild Dogs

Val from Mpala here. Mpala researchers Helen O’Neill and Stef Strebel have added new information to questions you sent in on Cheetahs and Wild Dogs.

What kind of habitat do cheetah favor and are we likely to see them on the live cams?:
People often think of cheetahs as species that only live on open savanna, however cheetahs are actually able to live in a wide variety of habitats.  Whilst they are often seen in open, grassy habitat they can also thrive in scrubland, dry forest and even semi-desert environments.  It’s important to remember that just because a species is seen more commonly in a certain habitat it does not necessarily mean they only use that type of habitat – it is much much harder to find an animal in woodland than on an open plain, so you would probably see them less often in woodland even if they spent the majority of their time there.
Unfortunately you are unlikely to see cheetahs on the live cams, although it is possible there may be the occasional sighting of one coming down to drink.  If you see a spotted cat on the cameras it is more likely to be a leopard.  You can tell the difference by looking at the spots patterns on their coats – leopards have spots which cluster into rosettes, whereas cheetahs have individual spots.  Cheetahs also have a tall, slender build and distinctive black tear drop markings on their faces; leopards are much stockier and do not have tear drop markings on their faces.
Are African wild dogs and domestic dogs related?:
No, African wild dogs are actually not closely related to domestic dogs. They diverged from other Canidae (the dog family) about 2-3 million years ago. They are the only member of the genus Lycaon, and their latin name Lycaon pictus means “painted wolf”. They are phylogenitically distinct from other wolflike canids, and have only four toes on their forelegs, whereas members of the genus Canis (including wolves and domestic dogs) have a vestigal fifth toe. African wild dogs also have the largest premolars (relative to body mass) of all carnivores other than hyaenas!
Both Helen and Stef work with the Kenya Rangelands Wild Dog and Cheetah Project. Helen took these pictures of their subjects on Mpala and Ol Pejeta, a neighboring ranch. Thanks to explore.org you can find out more about these animals at http://mpalalive.org/field_guide and watch the African Wildlife Live Cams here

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