This is the third post from my recent trip to Mashatu in February 2015.
“Be inspired by your journeys travelled and those yet to come”
– Sam Clark
We saw the coalition of three male Cheetahs on two occasions and the female with her four cubs on two separate occasions. I think Mashatu ranks right up there with Masai Mara when it comes to Cheetah sightings. Mashatu does not give you the huge, almost treeless plains which improve you chances of seeing a full Cheetah hunt but the Cheetah sightings are intimate and unusual.
To prove my point, I have selected a few images from our different Cheetah sightings in our last trip. The first was the coalition of three males. They were noticeably bigger than the female and looked to have been living hard in the bush.
This was not a grimace but the facial expression when this character was chirping to another male some distance off in the bush.
I was amazed to see how tolerant this male was with a Black-backed Jackal so close.
As soon as the other two males started to wander over to join the first male lying under the tree, the Jackal wisely decided a little more space between was probably a good idea.
The other two males stopped to smell a scent in the grass, probably from a female who had passed that way some time before. They were intrigued and captivated by the scent.
The next day we found the Cheetah mother with her four remaining cubs. She lost one cub a few weeks after the litter was born. We are not sure whether it was Lion, Leopard or Hyaenas that killed the cub as it was not found.
The female had killed an Impala doe and the youngsters were heartily tucking in.
They had the Impala in the shade under a small Shepherd tree.
All of the Cheetahs remained very alert. They would have a few mouthfulls of Impala and look around to make sure that they were still had no unwanted company.
The cubs ate with gusto, faces soaked in Impala blood.
It was seldom all five Cheetahs had their heads down eating. There was always one or two who were looking around to ensure the “coast was clear”.
Cheetahs tend to hunt mostly during the day to reduce conflict with other predators such as Lions and Hyaenas. This Cheetah family managed to eat in peace without Jackals giving their position away.
On our last morning game drive, we came across the four cubs with their mother wandering over a stoney ridge.
The female Cheetah looked in superb condition. This was no mean feat when rearing four rapidly growing, but vulnerable cubs in an environment with many Lion, Leopards and Hyaenas around.
The cubs looked a lot thinner than their mother, but this could have been because they were growing so fast.
It became apparent why the Cheetahs were walking over this stoney ridge. There was a fresh water spring part the way up in a gully.
Again the Cheetahs were very alert, always looking around them.
The Cheetah family scattered when a small flock of doves flew low and fast over them. They got a huge fright. It took a good few minutes for the family to regroup at the spring.
Having quenched her thirst, the Cheetah mother continued up the hill leaving the cubs behind at the spring.
“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.”
She was walking with purpose probably because it was still early in the morning and relatively cool.
Needless to say, after a refreshing drink of pure clean spring water the cubs started to dash around chasing each other.
That characteristic Cheetah run was developing with its sprung-loaded spine.
They had great fun chasing each other and were all well matched, speed wise.
The chasing part of the hunting technique was coming on.
The catching and stopping part had still to be developed.
Perhaps because the rangers and their guests were respectful of the animals they seemed to be relaxed around the vehicles. It is wonderful to be able to watch this unaffected interaction.
Kim Wolhuter has taken up residence in Mashatu to make a new wildlife documentary. I have never met the man but have huge respect for him in the way he is showing us intimate insights into the behaviour and life of African predators. I have seen all of his documentaries. They are unique and spellbinding. Kim shows unmatched intimacy and insight into Cheetahs in his documentary “Man, Cheetah, Wild”. Double click on the image below of Kim and the female Cheetah to be taken to Discovery’s blog on Kim. I wish him much success in Mashatu.
“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth.”
–Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe, in a letter to President Franklin Pierce
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.