The female cheetah and her two cubs are back on Londolozi but the mother has sustained an injury to her right eye.
Although things don’t look too promising for this female’s eye, I’ve starred in this movie before so don’t want to make any pronouncements or diagnoses here. We thought the Anderson male leopard had lost his eye entirely but he looks like he’s almost made a complete recovery, eyeball and all.
What happened to the mother cheetah her we cannot say for sure, but the side of her face looks swollen, so there was likely some kind of impact to it; maybe she collided with something or tripped while chasing after prey (If any other lodge has information about the injury we’d be interested to know). Whatever the case, this scenario is remarkably similar to one of a few years ago, in which the previous female cheetah that had two cubs sustained a serious injury to her back leg.
In that case the mother made a full recovery, as it seemed the extent of the injury was less than we feared; it was largely superficial. Both of those cubs went on to become successfully independent.
With the current cheetah and her cubs, it’s advisable to exercise restraint when it comes to jumping to a prognosis. Big cats are tremendously resilient creatures, and many times we’ve feared the worst for an individual only to see them recover fully.
Although the three cheetahs look quite skinny, they don’t look in particularly poor condition, and their lithe frames can make them look emaciated only a couple of days after a big meal.
In all likelihood the mother will still be in a period of adjustment to life with this eye injury, whether it’s permanent or not, and hunting will be tricky for some time to come.
One can see in the picture above how her right eye looks opaque. Despite having seen both leopards and lions with blind eyes of a similar appearance, I have also seen a leopard with an eye injury that involved an inner membrane becoming detached and pulled across his eyeball, that looked remarkably like this cheetah’s eye. That leopard also went on to make a full recovery. His eye did remain slightly wonky though.
I’m neither an ophthalmologist nor a vet, so I’m not making a call on this. I can only say that I hope that this cheetah, like many other big cats before her, proves just how tough her species is, and goes on from this minor setback to lead a long and healthy life.