Early one misty morning, something in the corner of my eye caught my attention. At first I thought it might have been the stump of a fallen tree, but as I looked through the binoculars I saw three heads peering through the grass. With great excitement I shouted, “Cheetah!”, but as I did tracker Richard Mthabine turned to look at me with a big smile on his face, which very quickly turned into a look of confusion, as he saw where I was looking and realised we were looking in completely different directions.
He too had seen something in the long grass, but it wasn’t the three cheetah heads I was looking at. It was in fact another cheetah…
Just seeing one cheetah here at Londolozi is lucky, but to see four at the same time was something special, so we were very curious to figure out what the dynamics were.
At first, we decided to keep our distance just to observe their behaviour from afar, as both sets of animals were looking at each other from a somewhat comfortable 80 metres apart. We soon saw that the three cheetah that I had seen was the mother and her two sub-adult offspring, and the other one that Rich had spotted was a male.
My initial thought was that the male would approach the female, but to our surprise he was the first one to back away and headed off in the opposite direction, away from the mother and her cubs. We later on saw that he was quite a young male which could explain his lack of confidence.
We continued to follow the mother and cubs for a short while as they moved through the long grass in the opposite direction of the male. They were moving fairly quickly, as she would likely have wanted to put as much distance between her and the unknown male as possible to ensure that he was no threat to her and her cubs.
After following them for awhile we headed back to where we had seen the male; thankfully ranger Barry Bath radioed to say that he had found him. We got to spend a decent amount of time following him until he eventually settled up in and open area for the rest of the day.
It’s not every day you and your tracker are equally excited about what you think is the same animal but in fact are two different sightings all in one.