When we first spotted the family of three, we were on a morning game drive with Camelthorn Lodge. Vusa, our guide, spotted her laying underneath a tree in the shade with her two cubs. What started out as excitement quickly turned into worry as we learned that two days prior, she had four cubs with her. What made it even more heartbreaking was her continuing call to her two missing cubs, which made it clear to our guide that they were most likely killed and weren’t just hiding in a safe spot.
Cheetahs are the fastest land mammal and can reach 60 mph in just three seconds, but their speed still makes them vulnerable to humans, lost of habitat and prey, and other predators. Cheetahs are listed as vulnerable and there are only an estimated 7,100 cheetahs left in the wild. Cheetahs have it rough, they don’t have a pride like lions or a clan like hyenas, but they hunt the same prey and are viewed as competition to other predators. Because of this, their cubs are often killed to “eliminate the competition”.
While male cheetahs will stay in pairs or in small groups (most of the time consisting of brothers), female cheetahs are loners and will only spend time with their cubs. The gestation period for cheetahs is three months and on average, a female cheetah will give birth to two to five cubs at once. Cubs will stay with their mother for 18-24 months. In that time, she will teach them everything she knows, especially how to hunt. After 18-24 months, they are off on their own and will need to hunt and fend for themselves.
That evening after our afternoon game drive, Lyndon and I went back to our tent and right by our door was a baby impala! It had to be the one the cheetahs were chasing and got separated from its mother and herd. Our guide told us that it would not survive the evening alone and hopefully the mama impala will come looking for it. Nature is a funny thing. One minute, I was hoping the cheetahs would have a successful hunt so they can eat and the next minute, I’m hoping this baby impala survives the night and that nothing will come eat it.
Seeing these cheetah (and as often as we did) was definitely one of the highlights of our entire Africa trip. There was another family that was leaving Linkwasha Camp the day we arrived and they never got to see any cheetahs during their three day stay, so we were so incredibly lucky. Cheetahs are such amazing animals and it makes me sad to think about how there might not be any cheetahs left in the world in the (near) future. Cheetahs are one of Lyndon’s favorite animals (it’s between them and the leopard) and I have to say, they are quickly becoming one of my faves as well.
To learn more about helping cheetahs, check out the Cheetah Conservation Fund.