We haven’t seen the female cheetah and her two youngsters in quite a while. Last reports were that they were seen on some clearings alongside the Kruger Park’s western boundary. That was a couple of weeks ago. Does this mean that they have left our property permanently? Although we have been through extended periods during which the three cats have not been seen before, this is the first time in which such a period has seen them leaving the Sabi Sand entirely.
During the first two years I was at Londolozi, I only saw two cheetahs. Both were vagrant males that wandered into the reserve from the Kruger Park, killed and ate an impala, and then disappeared, presumably back the way they had come. Then in May of 2012 a lone male arrived on the scene. Found by ranger Helen Young and tracker Enoch Mkansi in the South East of the reserve, we assumed he would be like the rest of his species and leave the area after a day or two, but thankfully he decided to stick around, and we have been viewing him ever since.
One of the main reasons that cheetahs are not all that common in the Sabi Sand is the density of other large predators, namely lions, leopards and hyenas. All of these outcompete cheetahs, who are forced to yield their kills rather than attempting to defend them and risking potential injury. Cheetahs will even be killed outright by the other big cats.
It has been mentioned before on the blog that the South western grasslands of Londolozi support a slightly lower predator density than the rest of the reserve, and this is where the male cheetah ended up. Obviously realising that the going was slightly easier in this region, he decided to stay.
Roughly a year later and we began hearing reports of a female cheetah with four cubs to our North East that had made their way into the Sabi Sand from the Kruger Park. To our delight they were found one evening on Sasekile Ingwe clearing, just north of camp on the opposite side of the river. Only two cubs were with the mother, so we can only assume that the other two had been killed somewhere in the wilderness.
Slowly but surely after that first sighting the three cats made their way gradually south, eventually ending up in the same area as the male. There they stayed for the next 9 months as the cubs grew in size and experience. As a ranging and tracking team we have spent many hours with these three beautiful animals, being privileged to watch the development of the young cheetahs in particular, witnessing their first hunting attempts – some successful and some not. We watched as their mother survived a nasty injury to her back leg, overcame it and made a full recovery.
And now it seems they have left us.
They were hanging around on Tu-Tones Crest for a day or two before crossing east of our boundary. This was no real cause for concern as they have headed that way before but have always returned within a day or two.
This time, however, they crossed over from Sunset Bend Clearing – this was over 3 weeks ago – and have not been seen since. Reports from the east were that they were all the way across near the Kruger boundary, so it is quite possible they have simply continued heading east.
Will they return? Maybe. Female cheetahs are not as territorial as males, tending to stick to home ranges rather (territories are actively defended, home ranges are not), so the three may wander back eventually.
Some kind of pressure obviously pushed the female and her cubs onto Londolozi in the first place. If we’re lucky, similar pressure will push them back west, and we can enjoy the viewing of this family of the fastest mammal on earth, once more.
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell
Filed under Wildlife
I feel so fortunate and blessed we had an opportunity to watch these beautiful cats while we were there in September. Hopefully, they will make their way back to Londolozi someday so others can experience how fascinating they are.
This was my third trip to Londolozi and the first time I saw Cheetah..we saw them on three separate drives during my stay the first part of October and was fortunate to spend quite a bit of time observing them. I hope they return for Londolozi guests to see.
We are indeed fortunate to have spent an hour or so with you, James, watching this trio of cheetahs devouring an impala. And they’d made quite a dent in that carcass when a leopard rushed into the scene to steal it away. I learned so much that day and feel blessed to have had that amazing experience.
So sorry to hear they have left Londolozi. After seeing this family being harassed for two days by the wandering male, I hope they have found a more secure location until the cubs are self sufficient. I, too, feel lucky to have seen them twice during my September visit! Thanks for keeping us posted!
We were also there in September and had a chance to watch them one morning. They are so beautiful and it was an incredible experience to get to spend some time with them. I hope wherever they go, they stay safe and continue to thrive. Your pictures are fantastic James, and thanks again for the map. It makes it much clearer to see where they have gone. Quite amazing how far they have roamed!
THank you for the lovely story around these amazing animals and also the lovely photos.Just hope they will be safe where they went and that they will return to Londolozi soon for all the visitors to enjoy them again and hopefully for ever.They are truly amazing !!!
Really interesting write up, thanks JT!
We enjoyed the time spent with these beautiful cats during our visit last September. Although they will be missed we really just hope they stay safe and thrive wherever they settle.
Saw them in March of 2013 when they were tiny babies & they were being stalked by wild dogs but mama saved the day & we all had a sigh of relief. Hope they come back by next September when I will be back to look for them.
Thanks for the update. I was at Londolozi in May 2013 when Byron happened to find them. They were so beautiful and it was amazing just watching all three playing and jumping around our vehicle. I hope they’re doing well. I love that you posted the map. Just goes to show just how big the property is and how far these cats actually roam.
Sad that they are gone, for now. I believe they will be back….it is their home, where they were raised and they will return 🙂
Happy Christmas to all at Londolozi and their extended family, animal and human. It is home for all of us!
I still wish to have a chance to see cheetahs personally. Although seeing them can be frightening, but it is a blessing to see creatures like them living free in the wild. God bless Londolozi for keeping the place a home for these wild creatures and for connecting human to nature and animals. 🙂