Armed with a spotter plane and a LandRover in hot pursuit, wildlife artist Guy Coombes searched for the elusive spotless cheetah.
“I was told about this incredible ‘morph’ phenomenon that has not been seen for over 90 years. The last one recorded was shot in Tanzania in 1921. ‘Morph’ means a genetic colour variation; the most well-known being the ‘king’ cheetah, specimens of which have only occurred in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Mughal Emperor of India recorded having a white cheetah presented to him in 1608, saying that the spots were blue in colour and the whiteness of the body also inclined to blue-ishness. There are also reported cases of melanism or albinism, but the latter does not apply to this spotless cheetah. The only reported cases of this morph, which scientists believe is a recessive gene like the king cheetah, have been in East Africa from the subspecies, acynonix jubatus raineyii.” – excerpt from Guy Coombes’ account with a ‘morph’ cheetah
Photos © Guy Coombes
Guy Coombes photographed this rare ‘morph’ cheetah in the Athi-Kapiti area of southern Kenya over a year ago.
Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals, with documented speeds up to 115 km/hour in captivity and 93 km/hour in the wild, but they cannot maintain such speeds for more than a few hundred metres. By comparison, sprinter Usain Bolt hits a top speed of 45 km/hour over a maximum of 100 metres.
They are found in a wide range of habitats, from dry forest and thick scrub to savannah grassland and arid deserts. Read more about cheetahs here.
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