Wildlife Community Network
One day two children, Moffet and Elisabeth, were walking in the bush. In the distance they saw a waterhole where three big cats were drinking. In order to get a better look at the animals, they tried to approach the water hole. As soon as they stepped closer, the predators saw the two children and ran away.
Elisabeth said, "Moffet, did you see how fast those cheetahs ran? And how well their coats concealed them in the thick bush?" "Those were not cheetahs," Moffet exclaimed, "they were leopards! You better stay away from them, they are very strong animals." The two argued all the way back to their village. Elisabeth was sure the three cats were cheetahs. Moffet insisted they were leopards. The two children decided to speak with the headman to find out about cheetahs and leopards. Hopefully, he could help them put an end to their argument. The headman, a wise old man, wanted to help the two children. He asked Moffet and Elisabeth about the animals at the waterhole. Elisabeth described them in great detail. "The bodies of the three cats were slender with long legs. Their coats were the color of dry grass and black spots covered their bodies. Their ears were small and they seemed to be crying. When we approached them, they sprinted away, running faster than any animal I have ever seen." "Crying?" exclaimed Moffet, "They were not crying." The headman, being very wise, asked, "Why do you think they were crying Elisabeth?" Elisabeth answered, "Because, wise headman, the long black lines on their faces looked like tear marks." Moffet agreed with her description of the animals. But, he thought the "tear marks" was a silly way to describe the black lines. The headman told the children that they had seen three cheetahs drinking at the waterhole. Elisabeth could not help saying, "I told you so, Moffet." The headman continued, "The cheetah is one of the most unique animals found on this earth." "Thousands of years ago, we could find cheetahs throughout the world, in North America, Asia, Europe, and of course Africa. There were a great many cheetahs all over Africa. Today, the populations have declined because people feared big cats and hunters killed cheetahs for their beautiful skins." "Where do most cheetahs live?" Elisabeth wondered. "Namibia is the cheetah capital of the world; it has more cheetah than any other country in the Africa. Even here, our cheetahs are becoming less and less. Humans and cheetahs live on the same land. Most humans do not want to share the land with the cheetah. Farmers remove cheetahs from their land if they think the cheetahs are eating their young livestock. And people kill cheetahs even when the cats are not eating livestock." "Cheetahs are beautiful animals. It seems wrong to kill them out of fear," Moffet said. "Headman, can you tell us how the cheetahs that Elisabeth and I saw at the water hold got their spots?" "I will be happy to tell you how the cheetah got its spots," the headman said. And this is his story: A very long time ago, when the earth was first created, all the animals came down onto the savanna. The animals, birds, insects were all different shapes and different colors. When the cheetah first came to the earth, just like all other animals, it shook its body and stretched its legs, and took a deep breath of the new clean air. The cheetah thought if felt very good to be alive. Each animal had to get used to its own body, so the cheetah started running and found out it could run very very fast. The cheetah ran and ran across the vast plains of the world. After a time of wandering the plains alone, the cheetah became lonely, and decided to look for friends of its own kind. One day, the cheetah, with its great eyesight, spotted some large cats off in the distance and eagerly went running as fast as she could toward these cats. As she was running toward them, one of the cats, which was much larger than the others, stood up and roared. The loud noise frightened the cheetah and she dug her claws into the dirt and came to abrupt halt. The cat was a big male lion, and he roared out to the cheetah in a very low booming voice, "Who are you and what do you want?" The cheetah, which is much smaller in size than a lion and who by nature is a very shy and timid animal, said "I am lonely and have been searching the savanna trying to find friends of my own kind." The lion roared, "Well, you are not a lion! Look at your legs and body, you are much thinner than we are. And look at your feet, you have claws like a dogs. Your claws do not retract all the way back into your feet like ours do. You are not a cat, you are a dog. So, you better run away fast and try to find someone in your own family." The cheetah lowered her head and put her tail down, and crept away feeling a bit discouraged. She thought big cats were very unfriendly. The cheetah continued her search looking for a friend of her own kind. The days went by. Then one day, the cheetah saw a pack of wild dogs playing in the sun. The cheetah went racing up to the pack. The whole pack was yelping and barking furiously. The cheetah stopped immediately, and the pack leader yelped at her, "Who are you and what do you want?" The cheetah began to tell the wild dogs her story about trying to find a family of her own. During her search, she was scared by a lion and saddened when he told her that the cheetah was not a cat, but a dog. The whole pack of wild dogs howled in laughter, and barked at her, "You are not a dog at all. Look at your round head and ears, and your rough tongue. They are like a cat's. Your tail is long just like the other cats. You are not a dog at all!" The pack chased the cheetah off, biting at her heels. This time the cheetah raced away very fast because she was scared. After running a safe distance from the dogs, the cheetah laid down to rest under a big camel thorn tree. She felt sad. She thought about how the lion roared and did not want her, and how the wild dogs yelped and bit at her feet, and she felt sadder and sadder. The cheetah felt so sad that started to cry. She was very lonely. The cheetah did not realize that any other animals were near her. A giraffe had walked up quietly while the cheetah was crying. The giraffe, looking down at the cheetah with its big brown eyes, asked, "Why are you crying?" The cheetah was very surprised when the giraffe spoke. The cheetah looked up tearfully at the giraffe and proceeded to tell her sad story about the lions roaring and telling her she was not a cat, and the wild dogs chasing her and saying she was not a dog. Sniffling, the cheetah said, "I have been sitting here crying, and I have cried so long and so hard--look at my beautiful face, the tears have burnt marks in my face." A bird that was flying by the camel thorn tree saw the beautiful cheetah and chirped, "I have traveled throughout this land and you, cheetah, are the most splendid and unique of all the cats I have seen." The headman concluded his story and said, "The cheetah has had spots ever since that lonely day. And it chirps like a bird to show how proud it is of being the most unique of all cats."