What a spectacular moment being able to watch the circle of life play out in full swing. Never did I imagine that I would witness a mother cheetah raise her two cubs to adulthood and in turn raise their own cubs.
One early morning game drive I headed up to the northern section of my reserve. Someone had gone ahead of me and I was totally dumbfounded when they called in a mother cheetah with two cubs. I almost thought that I did not hear correctly. Cheetah is not a sighting that I get to enjoy all too often. Luckily I was just around the corner from the sighting and I managed to join in on this special occasion. When I arrived, another surprise was in store. The mother cheetah had managed to take down an impala. Word has it that this mother made her way down from the Thornybush game reserve. She allegedly lost three of her five cubs to predators along her journey. She was left with one male and one female cub. This back story made it even more special as sat and watched two healthy cheetah cubs tucking into their morning meal with great enthusiasm.
Over the next two years I got quick glimpses of the brother and sister duo. During some sightings they were still operating together and after a while they had split up and moved into their solitary lifestyles.
As lockdown 2020 started, big news broke out. The female cheetah (sister) had just given birth to her own set of cubs. For those who know, cheetah cubs are the cutest things alive (check this post to see the cuteness). I wondered whether I would actually have the privilege to see these cubs.
There was one moment during lockdown where I had to pick up one of the safari vehicles from the reserve gate. As I was making my way back to the lodge, I passed two safari vehicles parked on either side of the road. I did not want to disturb any sighting that they may be enjoying. I bypassed them and had a quick glance to see if I could spot what they were viewing. Nothing, so I carried on. As I got back to the lodge I got a message saying that I drove past the cheetah with her two cubs. Imagine my frustration in that moment!
Pass on another year and I finally got my moment to view the circle of life come into play. The female cheetah had managed to raise her litter through the first year. The two cubs, now juveniles, no longer sported their white, honey-badger like coats, but they still carry some of the fluff on the scruff of their necks.
The three streamlined felines moved gracefully through some large grassland clearings. They took their time to scout the lay of the land on top of some termite mounds. After following them for some distance, they settled on one of the mounds.
In the distance a herd of impala stood under the shade of a large Marula tree. Some of them were grazing, some were just scanning the savannah, keeping an eye out for predators. The mother cheetah made the first move. She assumed her stalking position, keeping her head low and in line with her shoulders. She moved with calculated steps, the sun shining sharply behind her. Her two youngsters sat patiently on the termite mound and watched how mom would execute her plan.
One of the youngsters could not contain his excitement and decided to follow in mom’s footsteps. It is always incredible to watch how fully focused these animals are when they lock eyes with their prey. Unfortunately something must have gone wrong. The impala must have picked up the scent of the approaching cheetah and they gave off their typical alarming snorts. The impala moved off and mom took their spot in the shade of the Marula tree.
Mom signaled for the two juveniles to come and join her in the shade and call it a morning for hunting. I sat with these majestic cats for a little while longer and enjoyed thinking back to my first moment seeing the mom as a cub and how she is successfully raising her own litter now.