The cheetah survives in isolated populations in sub-Saharan Africa and in a small area of Iran. Some specimens are thought to still live in India and Pakistan, a hypothesis supported by the discovery of a lifeless specimen in the province of Balochistan.
The cheetah inhabits open spaces: it prefers open and flat areas, with a semi-desert climate and good grass cover, possibly with the scattered presence of raised points from which to keep an eye on the surroundings. However, it is found in a variety of habitats, such as the deserts, the steppe, the sparse bush, up to the stony and gravelly areas at the foot of the mountains, while it is instead completely absent from the humid areas or covered by thick forest, as the excessive vegetation would hinder the race.
The females, however, need bushy or tree-lined areas where they can withdraw during the birth and the rearing of the offspring. These areas, if present, are also used by males and non-pregnant females to rest in the shade, for example after a hunt.
Similar to what can be observed in the leopard, in which melanistic specimens are more frequent in the rainforest areas, the king cheetah specimens appear more frequently in the areas covered by miombo forest, where the particular speckling of the coat helps these animals to blend in among the dense vegetation.
The survival of the cheetah
Cheetahs are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN: in particular, the Asian and North African subspecies are considered critically endangered. The cheetah is also listed on Appendix I of CITES.
It is estimated that between 10,000 and 12,500 cheetahs live in the wild, many of which (about 2,500) are found in Namibia. In addition to these, between 50 and 60 cheetahs are found in Iran, thus making up the last representatives of the Asian subspecies.
The danger for the survival of this species comes from poaching and the destruction of the habitat: paradoxically, the institution of protected areas where to host these animals and their preys is counterproductive, as in these areas there is also a high density of other competing predators for food, such as hyenas and lions.
Faced with these animals, the cheetah is forced due to its lower physical strength to step aside in order not to be injured or killed, often having to leave its food and risking being preyed on or dying of starvation.