With so many Cheetah families concentrating in the short grass plains around Lake Ndutu, it is possible with a bit of patience to see a Cheetah hunt, which is probably one of the most extraordinary natural spectacles in Africa. On the first trip we followed a family of a mother Cheetah with three juveniles for two days. When we first caught up with them the mother was lying in the grass, while the cubs were playing. I scanned the surroundings and just a couple of hundred meters away there was another family, a mother with two cubs. They had already killed a Thomson’s Gazelle and were resting, but they were constantly keeping an eye out for the other family.
Mother Cheetah finally started walking and spotted a newborn Grant’s Gazelle nursing from its mother. Its fate was sealed. Mother Cheetah caught it easily and released it for the cubs to play. It’s an ugly death for the baby gazelle but a useful excercise for the young Cheetahs.
The next day the Cheetahs were still in the same area. No Gazelles were around but the cubs were very active, playing incessantly. The other family was also still nearby. Suddenly a herd of Wildebeests appeared, heading straight towards the Cheetahs. It was late January so very few calves had already been born. In this herd there were only grown-up Wildebeests so I thought that they might be too big for the Cheetahs. Nonetheless we positioned to see what would happen. One of the young Cheetahs got up and stalked towards the herd. The mother didn’t seem interested in the situation. She appeared to be willing to move on to look for more affordable prey. But the cub was on a mission. It started chasing the herd all over the place. The other juveniles joined in. Soon the cub reached a yearling Wildebeest and tried to pull it down unsuccesfully. At this point the mother also came in the scene. They singled out the yearling and surrounded it. As the Wildebeest tried to escape the mother Cheetah jumped on its back and pulled it down. We slowly moved closer to the scene, but the Wildebeest wasn’t prepared to fight any longer.