The hunt – it’s the pinnacle of safari action and something that most visitors to the bush dream of seeing.
However, while kills happen every day in the wild, it’s still something of a rarity to witness one because catching sight of a kill is simply a matter of luck.
To see my first kill in the open plains of Madikwe with two cheetahs taking down a zebra, was well worth the wait!
On that afternoon, we were with Field Guide JP Appelgren watching two cheetahs resting in the grass. From past experience, I had no reason to think that any more action would unfold. But in an instant, the entire scene changed.
A herd of zebra was grazing in the distance, and while an adult zebra isn’t a common prey item of cheetahs, they could possibly get lucky with a small one. The two cheetahs locked onto the smallest member of the herd, a young zebra foal.
Despite the scene being set up, I was still doubtful that these cheetahs were going to make a kill, but then they moved into position. They crouched down low and made their way closer and closer to the unsuspecting zebra, their spotted yellow coats perfectly camouflaged in the golden grasslands. One cheetah went ahead of the other; he was going to lead the charge.
Within 10 minutes, the first cheetah was close enough and in a flash took off at a full sprint – a speed that only a cheetah can reach. The whole herd stampeded away, creating sounds and vibrations that we could all hear and feel. The cheetah was so fast that it passed some of the adult zebras – its eyes were only on the foal.
The second cheetah followed suit. We drove after the commotion, and once the dust settled, were shocked to find that the cheetahs had come out the victors.
While we didn’t see the takedown, which was about 200 meters from where the chase began, we could make out what had happened. The cheetah had chased the foal into a small bush, caught it, and then finished the job there. The herd of zebra remained on the periphery, crying out in stress from the ordeal.
The cheetahs fed frantically. As relatively small predators, they are likely to have their kills stolen by lions, hyenas, or leopards, all which are in that area. The next morning, we heard areport that the cheetahs were nowhere to be seen, but lions had come to feed on what remained.
Words and Media By: Charlotte Arthun