Image: I Love Trees
The world’s fastest animal is born weak, helpless and unable to escape even the slowest predator, which is why cheetah mothers keep their cubs well hidden during their first few weeks of life. As further protection, the soft temporary ruff of fur that baby cheetahs are born with is believed to act as a disguise, fooling predators such as lions and hyenas into thinking the cubs are (the far less appetising) honey badgers.
Having made it through their earliest weeks, cheetahs begin their real education. Skills necessary to stay alive are partly learned through play, as young cheetahs roughhouse to practise their hunting moves. Yet these play-fights can turn serious if there are food shortages, compelling cheetahs to fight their siblings for sustenance. The lucky ten percent of cheetahs that survive their perilous childhood will leave their mothers after roughly a year and a half. Sisters go out to start their own families, but brothers may remain close to each other their whole lives.