There has been much excitement here at Londolozi over the past two weeks as we have had almost continuous viewing of a female cheetah and her two cubs, whose age we estimate to be just under a year. It was a huge surprise when they were first found towards the end of May, but they then disappeared for a few weeks, finally returning towards the end of last month. With cheetahs being so rare in the area, mainly due to the high density of other large predator species, one can imagine the excitement within the ranging and tracking team.
My favourite sighting of these three cheetahs came only a short while ago…
We set out at the break of dawn searching for male lions, however this plan changed quickly after we spotted cheetah tracks crossing the road. After a close inspection of the tracks by Head Tracker Jerry Hambana, he pronounced them to be very fresh. We changed direction to follow, switching off the vehicle for a few minutes to listen for any animals possibly alarming at the cheetahs. Immediately we heard the distinctive barks of a herd of impalas in the distance. We rushed off to quickly find the impala herd and as we rounded a corner Jerry thrusts both hands into the air and pointed to three cheetahs atop a termite mound roughly 200 metres away.
We slowly drove towards where the cheetahs were sitting and in my mind I knew what was about to come. It was a clear winter morning and the sun was about to rise and where the cheetah were positioned we were about the have the most beautiful golden light strike their warms coats. Cheetah will often sit atop termite mounds and fallen trees using them as a high advantage for either seeking hunting opportunities or escaping danger.
We watched as the mother kept a look out and the cubs played, stalking and chasing another, which is fundamental for the development of their skills later on in life. We spent almost an hour-and-a-half with them before the mother started moving and looking as if she was going to hunt.
After a fantastic sighting we decided to let them be and head back to the camp.
At roughly 1pm word had come through that the mother had managed to make two successful kills during the time we left her until the early afternoon! The first kill was unfortunately stolen by a clan of hyenas, leaving the cheetahs hungry despite the efforts of the adult female. However being an opportunist, she managed to capitalize on another opportunity almost immediately, and killed a second impala within a few hundred metres of the first.
Hopefully the female will continue to raise the cubs on and around Londolozi, and continue to provide us with some more special sightings like the one on this day. It is very difficult for cheetahs to survive in this area, let alone raise two cubs, but if the female of 2013 managed, there is no reason why this one cannot do the same…