This gorgeous lady is a king cheetah, though in this case it’s more appropriate referring to her as a queen cheetah methinks! Ever since I first laid eyes on a picture of one many years before, I'd dreamt of what I considered to be an impossible dream: an up close encounter with this exquisitely beautiful feline.
Then ten years or so later in 2011, during a six-day stay at a reserve for rescued cats in South Africa, there I was inside an enclosure - at times only an arms-length away! - from this regal beauty …... just goes to show, dreaming's good; dreams are there to be realised and life often has an uncanny way of lending a hand :-)
A king cheetah are not actually a separate specie, it is in fact still a cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), the only difference being a recessive gene that seem to join some of their spots together on their skin bleeding through to their coats, and three parallel black stripes that stretch down along each side of their spine from the nape of their neck to the base of their tail.
The first recorded sighting of this very rare animal was back in 1926 in Zimbabwe, and apparently there has only been six sightings of king cheetahs in the wild since then. It was suggested to me that at one time there may have been more, but the large, darker patterns didn't serve them well when it came time to hide from their primary nemesis, the lion, which may have brought about their demise.
Thanks for your time in reading this those of you that do, and whether you're reading this or not, wishing you all a beautiful weekend ahead filled with golden light :^)