With cheetahs being rather rare animals to see here at Londolozi you can’t help but get excited when you hear over the radio that one has been found in the south-western parts of the reserve. An even greater feeling is when you get the update from another ranger that there is not just one but two that have been seen!
This happened only recently, and while racing to try get to the sighting I couldn’t help but wonder what the possible dynamics of these two cheetahs could be. My mind immediately jumped to the thought of it being two males that have formed a coalition – which is fairly common between brothers – however I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was in fact a male and female.
Upon arrival we were guided to where the female was lying down, while one of the other rangers stuck with the male who was now approaching our position. We soon realised that the female had not yet noticed that she was being stalked. She got up and walked for about 150 metres with the male following and getting closer and closer; next thing we had two cheetahs running, one after the other at full speed, ending with the male catching the female which was followed by a short fight:
We sat with the pair for the next hour-and-a-half witnessing this very hostile interaction between the two cats. Every time the female looked as if she was going to make a break for it the male would enforce his dominance over her and it would end in a fight. He would then walk around making a noise I can’t recall ever hearing a cheetah make; it was more of a lower call that I could only think sounded more like a soft hyena contact call.
Could this have been a courtship ritual that so few people ever get to witness? If so it is likely that they would have stayed together for two to three days after this sighting, mating up to five times a day.
Unfortunately they were not seen later that afternoon nor the next day, but we are still hoping beyond hope that we could potentially have cheetah cubs on the reserve in the near future.