The struggle for cheetahs

I was determined to show my guests some cheetahs – two males that walk together on the reserve. My tracker and I know which area they like so we made our way. We found some tracks and followed them until they went into a big block. We went around to check if they had come out. No luck.

One of my colleagues was also in the area so the trackers decided to walk in and see if they can find them on foot. So we drove around in that area just in case the cheetahs came out somewhere.

We were just about to give up when we got a call on the radio “come to the open area, they are mobile towards there”. As we got there, there they were, walking gracefully across the open plains.

Many of the guests that come to Kapama think that the cheetah is the same as the leopard. But there are quite a lot of differences. Mainly, their spots – cheetahs have got solid spots, whereas leopards have got rosette-like spots. The cheetahs have got the so-called ‘tears’ under their eyes. Another main difference is the size. In most cases, leopards are shorter than the cheetah but they are built for strength and therefore have a more stocky or muscular body. The cheetah on the other hand is built for speed therefore is very lightly built.

After viewing these two cheetah brothers my guests were very excited and thrilled as this is not a common sighting. We started making our way back to the lodge but took a different route than usual. Suddenly, my tracker told me to stop and reverse the vehicle.

Another cheetah! This time a female! We drove off the road to get a closer look and there she was, with all her grace showing off her beauty. She was rolling around in the grass playing with what looked like a strip of bark, most likely left over by the elephants.

It was amazing to see how she let us into her world and allowed us to see a different side of her – a childlike play that is not often seen in adult cheetahs.

This was a great drive that allowed all of us to gain new insight about these secretive and scarce creatures.

Kim (KC) – Kapama River Lodge
05/11/2012

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