Monday, March 5, 2012

Cheetahs - Up Close and Personal

The weather has turned bad. We are experiencing a cyclone of unknown proportions other than we are to expect somewhere between 30 and 50 centimeters of rain over the next 36 hours. Hopefully it will subside by Monday so we can visit Phinda, the neighboring game park. Phinda is 60,000 hectares as opposed to the 3000 of Zulu Nyala, so we have a much better chance of seeing leopards and a good chance to see lions. There are no lions here on Zulu Nyala’s smaller range. 
Cheetah At Emdonene (More on this Later)
Marking Territory
We did get out this morning just before the rains began. And what a morning it was. First we had some great views of Cape Buffalo (more on that in a separate posting). And we finished with a nursing rhinoceros. More on rhinos later, too. The real highlight was the three cheetahs we spent about an hour with. 
Phinda Refuge Cheetah
Phinda Cheetah
Phinda Cheetah
Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animal reaching speeds up to 140 kph in short bursts. They have huge lungs and nostrils so they can get enough air, but if they run too far they will overheat and perhaps die. The only cats with non-retractable claws that help them run, they also are the only cats with a rear-facing claw they use to cut the leg tendons of their prey if they aren’t able to catch them. When they do catch their prey, they jump on the back and use their strength to cut off the air supply suffocating the animal. Unfortunately for cheetahs, they are the prey to almost every other large animal in the neighborhood.

Playful Brothers
Two of the cheetahs belong to Zulu Nyala. The other belongs to Phinda. There used to be three brothers on the Phinda side, but two have been killed by the Zulu Nyala pair, who are also brothers. They actually pulled one through the fence to kill him. Now, since cheetahs tend to band in brotherhoods for life, this single cheetah is left alone. Probably he has no place to go except this dangerous area (for him) along the fence. He is the same animal we saw on our first evening here. 

The two on our side didn’t interact with the Phinda cheetah, but they did provide us with some interesting behaviors as they rested allowing us to stay with them for that hour. At first they simply lazed around occasionally rolling over to dissipate some heat. Eventually they got up to relieve themselves and perhaps mark territory. 

After wandering a bit, they settled back down next to each other and began to caress one another for the next 20 minutes or so. The pictures tell this story.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, those are amazing photos. Thanks for taking us along on your trip....on a virtual basis :)