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Our guide Veronica tells us about the first cheetah cubs encounter with volunteers

Cheetah Cubs

That morning we headed out to look for the female cheetah that recently had two cubs. She had stopped denning and was starting moving the cubs around in the thicket, so it became more difficult for us to find them. The volunteers had not been fortunate to see the cubs yet.

We started looking for her at 6:00 AM around the site where we last saw her. It took us four hours to track her down, she moved as we followed her from the thick northern blocks to the open plains. As she used to go to the plains to hunt alone, we didn’t really think we would see the cubs and hoped to catch her hunting some impala on her own instead.

We first saw her laying in the shade just at the border of the plains and we immediately spotted two little bumps of fur popping out from behind her, the cubs! The excitement level in the car was immense. At first the visual wasn’t great but nonetheless the cameras started going crazy. All of a sudden the female stood up to look around and we got a good visual of the little ones, then she started walking and moved to a different shady tree calling the cubs to make them follow her. As they walked along their mother we could see how much they resembled honey badgers (it’s a defense mechanism that cheetahs have evolved to give their cubs an extra protection against predation, honey badgers are fierce creatures not likely to be hunted by any predators).

The decision was made: we would stay there all morning!

Our patience paid off, after 20 minutes of waiting she suddenly decided to move into the open plains to look for impala. At first she walked toward us alone, checked the surroundings and then called the cubs that came out running behind her. The best surprise of all was to see her completely relaxed with our presence, she even crossed the road with her cubs right behind our car. The two cubs were a bit more suspicious of us, it was the first time for them to see and approach a car full of people, but they saw how relaxed mum was and followed her lead.

A big herd of impala was just 100m away from the cheetahs when they stopped to rest under a tree. The female then entered stalking mode. It was fascinating to see how the cubs tried to imitate their mother, placing their feet carefully in the grass, crouching down, and then suddenly decide that playing was much more fun and jumped on top of mum’s head. We knew then that it would take her a long time to hunt having to deal with her two playful babies. So, we moved the car to get a good visual of the impala and waited. An hour later a male impala started walking slowly towards where the cheetahs were, completely unaware of their presence. We were all holding our breaths. It all happened very quickly: a flash of the cheetah tail slashing through the bushes, impalas running in every direction, wildebeests impala and monkeys alarm calling all over the plains. While the mum started the chase, the two cubs ran the opposite direction and stopped in front of our car. They were scared and stayed close to one another. We couldn’t see the female anymore, and the cubs were calling for her. So we waited with them for the female to finish the hunt and call for the cubs. Fifteen minutes later we heard her calling from the middle of the plains, the cubs then rushed from the bushes at full speed calling for mum and disappeared in the direction from where the call was coming from. Finally we moved the car around and found them all together again with a fresh impala kill!

After all the excitement of the morning we left them enjoying their meal and, with a big smile on our faces, we went back to base, glad to have lived this amazing experience possible only here at LEO Africa!