Daytime Stalkers | 2021 Wild Stories Ep 4 | Big Cats |
When you look at Cheetah stats; – Fastest Animal on earth. 0-60mph in 3 seconds. You would think invincible right?
Do you know how you have difficulties in life? That does not only happen to humans. Mother Earth provides for all of us but every single species has to go head to head with the battle for survival. Just as nothing great is ever handed to any human, meals for the predators in the animal Kingdom coming even at greater dangers. Can you imagine if there was a chance of you dying or getting injured every time you wanted to eat? That is basically the complexities of life for every predator in nature and Cheetahs, although being the fastest land animals on the planet are not immune to this. It’s because of that they have adopted the brilliant strategy that is the topic of this story.
Cheetahs are not only the most majestic and agile creatures I have photographed yet, but they are also very smart and calculating. Besides them being top predators, they are not large. They are built for speed and agility so their bodies are smaller. That limitation to body size and strength makes them vulnerable to other bigger predators like lions, leopards, and hyenas who will steal meals from predators they can intimidate. Generations of getting their meals stolen have taught them to be extremely careful to only hunt when the conditions are right. Big Cats use a lot of energy to hunt and it’s important for their survival to reduce any risks of injury or exhaustion. They must also scan the plains and see that they cannot identify any dangers before committing to a hunt. Remember how annoying it was when a bully took your lunch in school? Well, there is no-one to report a bully to in nature, animals adapt to their environments.
Cheetahs are very observant creatures and they know the slower bigger predators are even slower and lazier in the middle of the day when the sun is hottest. So, if they strike at this point, they are able to successfully hunt, eat quickly and move away from the scene before other animals alert the bigger predators and scavengers. You have to remember that most of the time mother cheetahs are always with their cubs and it’s a mother’s number 1 interest to feed them and get them out of danger as quickly as possible.
And so, when all the morning game drive vehicles have gone back to the lodges for refreshments and relaxation, I stay back in the scorching sun and look for hungry cheetahs. Experience has taught me how to identify cheetahs that have the intent to look for a meal. You can see it in their behavior. I know if they identify prey, there is a high chance of a hunt when things are quieter. Once a cheetah identifies a target, they immediately go on stalk mode. They lower their body to the ground, hide with anything that can act as an obstacle between them and the prey. They start to move slowly, almost like slow motion. They stalk until they are close enough to unleash their lethal speed. When the stalking is done right, wind circumstances and other factors are right, cheetahs have a 40-50% hunt success rate. Some of their victims never feel them coming.
Because we are visual beings in here 🙂 here are some images that demonstrate the whole process.
Just as everyone is preparing for their evening game drive, the cheetah has fed, cleaned herself so as to not attract predators to herself and young ones, drunk some water, and took a nap for the rest of the afternoon. This is always a good time for my Safari guests, our guide and I to take a break, stretch our legs, and even have some lunch ourselves.
After both cheetah and humans have full bellies, we will probably hang out till evening (obviously with the humans safely back in the car). As a wildlife photographer, it’s such a satisfying feeling for me when I see them celebrate a wonderful day with full bellies because I am not only there to document them but also root for their success as a species. As they are walking off to the sunset, In my mind, I can almost hear African beats playing as they “have” conversations about what a good day it was in the world of Day Stalkers. Remember, this is just of the many strategies that this Big Cat has in its hunting bag of tricks 🙂
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Until the next Wild Story, let’s keep dreaming, exploring, and documenting. ~ ClementWild
In my bag when taking the above images from different trips was the Canon EOS 1D Mark II, Canon EOS 5DSR and Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Some of my lenses were Canon EF 70–200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and Canon EF 17–40mm f/4L IS II USM.
#ClementWild #CanonAmbassador #CelebrateAfrica