It was a bitterly cold morning as we headed out at first light in search of the mother cheetah and her two cubs. We were extremely fortunate as we found them after only 30 minutes. Due to the cold they had not yet become active, however, as soon as we found them the mother started to make a move. She made her way to the first vantage point, which was a fallen tree and used the height to scan the horizon. Upon hearing a herd of impala, on the other side of the ridge, her body language changed instantly and she moved directly towards the prey in a steady, low slung trot with her two youngsters in tow.
The mother now had the advantage of high ground and the entire herd were in front and below her. Her cubs, who are about 10 months old, were boisterously following her approximately 50m behind and fast approaching her position. They hadn’t, as yet, spotted the herd and she knew that as soon as they did they would bound towards the impala and ruin her chances.
What happened next was a testament to her hunting prowess and skill. She immediately moved south at 90 degrees to the position of the herd, using the ridge as cover and following a small line of bushes. Just as she had pre-empted, the minute her youngsters reached the crest and spotted the herd of impala they broke cover and chased after them. The impala ran straight towards the mother and, in a small depression, she was able to catch a young impala. What she had created was a pincer manoeuvre using her inexperienced young cheetah cubs.
Following this, she then used the situation as a training exercise and released the impala. This allowed her one cub to bring it down in an attempt to kill the unfortunate creature, while she went off and called her second cub, who had become separated during the chaos of the hunt. As the second cub arrived they were able to pull the small impala to the ground and finally kill it.
It is hard to witness the slow demise of a young impala by such inexperienced hands, but it is vital part of nature and provides nourishment for the cheetah family.
Written and Filmed by: Chris Goodman
Photographed by: Chris Goodman and Rich Laburn