The mother cheetah has been badly injured.
We don’t know what happened to her, but she was tracked and found by Melvin Sambo and Milton Khoza yesterday evening, not too far from camp, with a large and serious-looking gash on her back right leg. Her cubs were with her still, which I suppose is one positive, as they must have been near her during whatever incident took place yet got through unscathed.
We have yet to determine how serious the injury is to the female, as the three cheetahs were found shortly before sunset, and in the half-light and in long grass it was difficult to ascertain the extent of the damage to her leg.
Let’s look at the facts.
At the moment, there are four cheetahs viewable on Londolozi. The predator-rich area that is the central Sabi Sands precludes a higher number from setting up territories here, yet these four – the solitary male and the mother and cubs – have so far thrived. The grasslands that are their home support a lower number of herbivores than the surrounds, particularly areas closer to the Sand River, and as a result fewer large predators inhabit the area. The grasslands are like an island of refuge in a sea of lions, hyenas and leopards.
Yet it was only 48 hours ago that the mother and her cubs ventured once more onto Nyamakunze crest, which as mentioned in The Week In Pictures a couple of times recently, borders the grasslands and is where the predator density rises dramatically. Less than 500m from where the male cheetah was robbed by the Camp Pan male leopard last week, the mother and her cubs had their impala kill stolen by the Sparta pride two mornings ago.
They headed west to lie out the day in the shade of a Scented Thorn Acacia, but as evening fell they moved north towards the Maxabene Riverbed, out of familiar territory. Yesterday morning they were not found, but tracks crossed the Maxabene still heading north, towards an area the three cheetahs have never ventured before.
Setting out on afternoon game drive, Melvin and Milton found the tracks not too far from the airstrip and followed up, eventually finding the three cats near Vomba Dam, less than a kilometre from camp, with the mother badly wounded.
What is going to happen to her, especially near the river, away from familiar territory, where lions and leopards abound?
If she dies, the cubs die with her. They may survive a few days or even a few weeks if lucky, but they are almost certainly too young to fend for themselves and survive in such a hostile environment.
Londolozi has a non-intervention policy when it comes to animals injured by natural causes, but is is still sad to stand by and watch.
We will obviously monitor the female and her cubs closely, but I would be interested to hear your opinions on what you would do – Intervene and potentially save the three animals? Or sit back and let nature take it’s course?
Please leave your thoughts below
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell