When I started photographing wildlife about 3 years ago, I always thought of cheetahs as very shy cats. They fit the narrative, because I had watched many wildlife films showcasing them hunt. The methodology was the same, they stalked, got as close as possible and then made their lightning 30-second sprint to the unsuspecting prey, and it worked, with cheetahs having a 50% success rate.
During my latest trip to Mara, my intention was to observe these cheetahs. But not just any ordinary cheetah, a very special coalition that has been named “The Five musketeers”. They have no doubt given me very different view of Cheetahs and what I thought I knew about them.
Wildlife and especially big cats are more intelligent than we give them credit for. Their ability to adapt in different situations in order to survive is phenomenal. This coalition for example, consisting of 5 young males has found strength in numbers and boy are they making it work for them.
They are unique in every sense, their hunting strategy for example is unconventional. This being migration season these cheetahs seem to have studied and noticed that large groups of wildebeests will not run very far away at the sight of a small predator. So what they are doing is walking straight into a large herd – no stalking – and dispersing them. This was very strange and I could not understand what they were doing. It is until l watched them do this over and over again that I understood that while they are dispersing the wildebeests, they were using that opportunity to identify the most suitable target, once acquired they start to chase it.
The wild dog
As for the actual chase, they seem to have borrowed a leaf from the more successful hunter – the wild dog. The chase is strategic and each of them takes a turn. One will chase and trip the animal, then the second will pick up the chase and do the same and this continues on, almost looking like a game. But it’s not, because of they are 5 they need to take down a big prey so each can eat to their satisfaction, for that, they have to tire the large prey.
Genius how these cats have been able to adapt. I feel very confident that their reign will be for some years to come.
See the series of photos I took on one of the hunts. They hold onto the prey long enough before they give the kill bite.
Till the next time, stay wild at heart.