What food does a cheetah eat? … Fast food!

Fast-food for cheetah doesn’t include a drive-thru or takeaways. To catch their dinner, cheetah use their speed and agility to outrun their prey!

Did you know that the cheetah holds the title for the fastest land animal in the world? But do you know how they are so fast?

Cheetahs have multiple traits that combine to make them the ultimate fast-food predators:

  • Small & lightweight: For a ‘big cat’ the cheetah is fairly small and slender, weighing between 35-65 kg. With less weight to carry, cheetahs can reach higher speeds a lot faster. 
  • Flexible spine: Cheetahs have an extra flexible spine that acts like a spring. When all four feet are on the ground, the spine flexes. As the spine extends, all four legs are pushed out, helping propel them off the ground with a powerful force! 
  • Small streamlined head: They have a small head with small streamlined ears that flatten when they run, preventing drag.
  • Semi-retractable claws: Unlike other big cats, a cheetah's claws don't fully retract. Therefore, when they're running, cheetahs still have traction with the ground, preventing slipping and sliding!
  • Long tail: Cheetahs have long, muscular tails that act as a counterbalance, helping them steer and stay stable - much like a boat's rudder! 
  • Powerful legs: Cheetahs have long legs with large muscles that contain fast-twitch fibres. This type of muscle contracts faster than normal muscles and combined with a cheetah's spring-like spine, helps these cats cover 7 metres in one powerful stride!
  • Enlarged airways and powerful heart: Wide nostrils and large lungs combined with a powerful heart and strong arteries provide more oxygen to a cheetah's muscles. 

At the Zoo

Born on 16 November 2015 in South Africa at the Cango Wildlife Ranch, Qia (pronounced key-ah) and Quartz now live at Auckland Zoo as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. 

How to spot the difference:

Quartz is slightly larger and darker in colour, and her right eye looks a little bigger than her left due to eye surgery when she was younger. If you can see both of their tails, Qia's has a larger white tip at the end of hers.

Keeper and cheetah training sessions

Our carnivore keepers regularly work with Qia and Quartz to perform routine health checks. Our keepers use positive reinforcement training techniques, which means if Qia and Quartz complete a task (like stepping on the scales) they will be rewarded with a slurp of milk!

Snoozing sisters 

Like other cheetahs, Qia and Quartz spend a lot of their time resting - 88 per cent of their day, in fact! Excluding chasing prey, cheetah are only mobile for about 12% of their day which works out as 1 hour of rest for every 7 minutes of non-chasing movement!


Cheetah Qia and Quartz arrive at Auckland Zoo!

We’re celebrating the arrival of our two new female cheetah who were hand-reared and raised at Cango Wildlife Ranch and will in the future become part of the international breeding programme for their species.

In the Wild

Origin: African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki) are mostly found in isolated parts of Southern and Eastern Africa, with a few smaller populations in Northern and Central Africa. In Asia, the Asiatic cheetah subspecies (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) is now only found in Iran. 

Habitat: Cheetah live in savanna, shrubland, grassland and desert habitat types. 

Conservation status: Vulnerable

How we’re helping

Conservation Fund

Since 2004, the Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund has worked with and supported Cheetah Outreach with their mission to promote the survival of the South African cheetah. To reduce human-wildlife conflict between cheetahs and farmers, Cheetah Outreach place livestock-guarding dogs on farms in areas where cheetahs are present. These dogs watch-over livestock and instinctively protect them from a variety of predators, including cheetah. Since this project started, Cheetah Outreach have reported a drop in livestock loss. Cheetah Outreach also has a curriculum-linked education programme which teaches young children about the importance of conservation and species in the area.

Breeding programme

Qia and Quartz are spending time at Auckland Zoo as species ambassadors before they leave to become part of the international cheetah breeding programme. The plan is that both Qia and Quartz will go on to contribute to the genetic diversity of captive cheetah as a safety net for cheetah populations in the wild.

How you can help

A $50 donation to the Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund could train and feed an Anatolian Shepherd dog for one week, reducing human-animal conflict and protecting cheetah in the wild. 

Just by visiting the Zoo a portion of your ticket will contribute to conservation projects in Africa that support cheetah in the wild!