Cheetah on the run

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They act playful when they are not hunting for their survival

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In the cool of the early morning, when prey is abundant and within striking distance, Cheetah sometimes do nothing. Only when the sun is higher, and  it is getting so hot that heat waves interfere with photographing them with a telephoto lens, do they streak after their prey. Their excessive panting after a chase are an indication of how winded they are in the mid day heat.

This is one of those aspects of cheetah behavior that cannot be explained. Why they pass up opportunities in the cooler part of the day is hard to understand. They don’t seem to catch on to the fact that we need better light for good photos!

Here is an example of heat waves and harsh late morning sun

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There is an abundance of cheetah and prey when we go in February, and with patience and good guides, you get your chance to catch them in action.  We came across a unique situation, something even the guides had not seen before.

This female cheetah had a successful hunt with a gazelle. This is an adult Thomson’s gazelle, which was not her primary target. She was looking for a 1-2 day old gazelle calf hidden in the grass, and ended up killing the mother of the baby gazelle she was looking for (or so we thought).

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She put it down after killing it and called to her cubs

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This short video shows how winded she is in the heat of the late morning

She scanned the grass looking for where they were hidden

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As her cubs ran towards her they scared the gazelle calf  their mother was looking for originally. It was hiding right in their path. What are the odds of that happening?

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Their instincts to  hunt overtook their mother’s calling, and they spent the next 15 minutes ineptly trying to kill the calf as their mother looked on

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The mother cheetah left her dead gazelle and watched her cubs, letting them learn on their own

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Eventually the cubs killed the gazelle calf

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Imagine our surprise when one of the guides radioed that the adult gazelle the mother cheetah had killed was gone. It turns out that it was never killed, just stunned, because the mother cheetah was distracted by her cubs and what they were doing.  While all of us, including the mother cheetah, were watching the cubs, the adult gazelle got its wits and walked away. It was one major stroke of luck for a hapless gazelle that a few minutes prior had its throat in a cheetahs mouth!

Follow this link to see many more photos of cheetah hunting from prior trips.