The life of a cheetah is not an easy one. This is why when one is seen on Londolozi, the rangers, staff and guests alike all get extremely excited. After a morning game drive last week, it was reported that a female cheetah and her two cubs of between five to six months old were seen in the North of Londolozi. Knowing that rangers would be scrambling to show their guests that afternoon, a few of us in the office decided to go out in the middle of the day to try and get a quick view of her. Although seeing the female is great, there was a small amount of disappointment among us when the cubs were deep in a thicket as we arrived. Because of this we decided to sit patiently with the hope that they would come out and we could get a glimpse of them.
After a few minutes, the female lifted her head and began showing some interest in a few impala standing under a tree a fair distance away. During the heat of the day it is common to see most animals standing in the shade of a tree, fallen log or termite mound in an attempt to keep cool. This is not necessarily true of a cheetah; they are not the same as the other big cats as they do not hunt at night. The cheetah’s eyesight is not like the other big cats and is incredibly bad in the dark so they cannot rely on that to hunt. This is an advantage for the cheetah, as being the smallest of the predators, they need to avoid confrontation with the bigger cats and hunting during the day can, most of the time, ensure that.
With the fear of the cubs getting in the way of the hunt, we did not get our hopes up when she began stalking the herd. Nevertheless, these cubs seemed to know exactly what to do and they stayed in the one of the thickets that their mother snuck into until she called them out a few moments later. Due to the cheetah being the fastest land animal, the next few seconds were an absolute blur of impala alarming and running, dust and the odd glimpse of the cheetah dashing through the grass. For some of us it was so quick that it was impossible to get it all on film…
Before we knew it, there were no less than a hundred vultures circling above. The female was so drained after the intense hunt, that she was not even able to move from the shade of the tree to drag the kill into a safer position, hidden from the vultures.
It can be fatal for cheetahs if they do not allow themselves to cool down after such over exertion in the heat. In this case the instinct for staying alive was a lot greater than eating. Eventually she managed to get up and drag the kill into the shade of a tree and could begin feeding. Whilst she was feeding the cubs kept a wary eye on the vultures circling above!
Written by Kate Neill
Filmed by David Dampier
Photographed by James Tyrrell, David Dampier, Chris Kane-Berman and Kate Neill