During a game drive on a Tuesday morning with several guests at Jaci’s Safari Lodge, we were hot on the trail of wild dog’s tracks that were sending us on a bit of a wild goose chase, and were beginning to confuse Oliver, the experienced game ranger.
Behind the passenger seat, sat little Rebecca, an intelligent young girl with dreams of becoming a vet one day. Her favourite wild animal is a zebra and she was very excited to be experiencing the wilderness, eager to see her zebra. The drive however was limited, it was the aftermath of rain and most of the roads were not in drivable condition.
However, luckily for us one of the extension was open for game drives, a coincidence as game rangers began calling mangau (cheetahs) on the radio channel. No one could have predicted what happened next, as we patiently made our way towards the direction of the cheetah’s.
Two cheetahs were lying lazily on the ground and they looked more interested in resting than they did in the wildlife buffet that was grazing around them. There were impala and zebras scattered all over, which too looked as thought they were unaware of the proximity of the reclining cats, what came next took everyone by surprise.
Slowly one of the cheetah got to his feet, and with a quick survey of the area, Oliver pointed to a baby zebra that was protected by her family – or so we thought. There was a lone Impala nearby, cheetahs usually prefer Impala, but this was not the case today.
On the side mirror by the passenger seat, young Rebecca had realised what about to happen and quickly covered her face with a scarf, resurfacing moments later with a smile. She realised that she was about to witness something amazing, and did not want to miss the experience of seeing the food chain at work in the wild.
Looking closely to see if the cheetah was going for the now alarmed impala that was desperately seeking protection amongst the dazzle of zebra, Oliver had already started his engine and was slowly following the hunt. It all happened so quickly, we barely had time to blink when suddenly the zebras scattered, the impala was isolated but the kill had already been done, and all we could hear was the dying sound of the foal.
Everyone was in a daze, confused at how this cheetah, within the space of 12 seconds, had identified its prey, hunted it down and had it on the ground with it’s teeth deep in the throat of the baby zebra.
We realised with amazement, that whilst one of the cheetah had dispersed and distracted the zebras causing them to isolate the foal, the other had sprinted straight towards his target and made the kill.
After all the energy involved in the hunt and the dragging of the baby zebra to a safe spot, the two male cheetahs were now too tired to eat, but they could not take a chance to let their guard down, as maybe other hunting cats had heard the commotion.
While remaining close to the kill the cheetah boys glanced nervously about for any sign of other hungry cats, but nothing came and they continued to recover. By this stage Rebecca and the other guests on the vehicle were satisfied and we made our way back to the lodge, all the while talking about the kill and the animals we had been lucky enough to view on our drive that day.