Masai Mara 2007- Cheetah

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They are such regal looking animals, and since they are daytime hunters you get an opportunity to capture them in action. These are only a few of the thousands of cheetah photos we took. At the end of this page we have a sequence of cheetahs on an actual hunt as a mother teaches her yearlings how to hunt.

This fat belly confirms a recent successful hunt

Watching out for other predators that might take her kill as she is eating

Scanning for any potential prey

In the morning sun we got the poses we wanted

They are always scanning, looking for potential prey

This photo was taken minutes after she made the kill

Sitting still for us so we can take a nice portrait

Yearlings in the afternoon sun

In 3 weeks over many encounters this was the only time I saw them drink

Even though they are slim compared to lions, they are highly muscular. The powerful tail is an important counterbalance when they turn rapidly at high speed.

Cheetah mother training her cubs

This next sequence of photos depicts a cheetah mother showing her pups some of the skills they will need to survive. It shows the ruthless nature of the beauty we observed all around us in the Mara. It is not for the faint of heart, and shows how cruel nature can be amidst all its beauty.

A special sports shooting camera by Canon, called the 1D Mark III, was used. It shoots up to 10 pictures per second, and each picture is 10 megapixels in size. It is also designed to lock focus on rapidly moving objects. I used a Canon 400 mm DO lens for all of these photos. I was ready with a brand new large capacity disk, and over the course of the 30 minutes of action we observed I took lots of photos. I figured what the heck, I might never see this again, and I had plenty of disks. So I blasted away, and I am glad I did because the rapid movement of the cheetahs made it difficult to get good photos. What follows are a just few of these photos.

We came across this cheetah mother with her two cubs as we were returning from our morning game drive. Our guide could tell she was on the hunt, so we waited to see what she would do. He explained that she was looking for young Thompson gazelle, and he positioned us in what he thought we be a good position to see the action.

After 15 minutes she spotted something

It was a very young gazelle that had been hidden in the grass by its mother

It instantly burst from its hiding spot and ran away as the cheetah closed in

This young gazelle did not stand a chance against this adult cheetah, and it was caught within a few seconds. Until you see the phenomenal acceleration and coordination of this adult cheetah it’s hard to describe. They turn instantly, using their powerful tail as a counter balance.

She trips it up and as it falls to the ground she pounces and bites it at the throat. Routinely this is how she would kill it. It is relatively rapid, and prevents sounds that will attract larger predators that can easily take the kill away from a cheetah. In this case though, the mother only stunned it, and kept it pinned until her cubs arrived. You can see the one of the cubs on the right.

Both cubs have caught up with the young gazelle and try their hand at biting it. From this point on for the rest of the sequence the mother watches out for larger predators who might take this kill from them or endanger her cubs. She lets the cubs learn on their own.

They are ineffective and the gazelle gets away, until the cubs pounce on it again. The remaining pictures in this sequence show the cubs chasing it down, catching it, and then watching it until the gazelle takes off again and the chase continues. This happened over and over again.

Finally the mother kills the gazelle and the cheetahs eat it rapidly