Tag Archives: cheetah

Summertide Diary: Exploring Mountain Zebra (part one)

1 January 2021

As soon as the gates opened on New Year’s Day we headed for the Rooiplaat Loop, the sightings board at reception having indicated that Lions and Cheetahs were seen there the previous day. And we did not wait long – right where the road skirts the Park’s boundary fence we came across a big male lion, known as Nomad, patrolling his territory.

We supposed that it was the proximity of the big predator that made these Black Wildebeest so jittery!

It’s early morning in the Mountain Zebra National Park and there’s so much to be seen!

It was on the link road between Rooiplaat and Ubejane Loops that we happened upon these cute little Bat-eared Fox pups and their elders. More photos of them tomorrow!

Bat-eared Fox pups

Along the main road, between the two junctions with the Ubejane Loop, we saw this pair of unusually tolerant Secretarybirds – they’re normally quite nervous and move away from the road the moment a vehicle approaches, so this was a great opportunity to watch them in action.

At the southern junction of Ubejane Loop with the main road there’s a small earth dam filled with rainwater. By the time we arrived there at mid-morning Cape Mountain Zebra families were arriving from all corners, along with some other wildlife, to slake their thirst and it was wonderful to watch their social interactions before heading back to camp.

Back at camp there was time to kill either side of lunchtime, and thankfully there’s very much of interest around the accommodation and camping area.

Our route for the afternoon would first take us into the mountains along the Kranskop Loop before taking another jaunt around the Rooiplaat Loop.

A real highlight of our afternoon drive was an encounter with a group of three Cheetahs – one adult and two youngsters – on the Rooiplaat Plateau, just half-an-hour before we had to be back in camp.

 

We posted a special feature about Mountain Zebra National Park following a previous visit, if you’d like to learn more about this special destination.

Map of Mountain Zebra National Park from the SANParks website (https://www.sanparks.org/images/parks/mountain_zebra/mznp-map.jpg)

A day in Pilanesberg: Hour 5

We’ve just been commenting on the scarcity of giraffe sightings so far into our day at the Pilanesberg National Park when we find ourselves in the middle of a giraffe roadblock on Tlou Drive.

It takes a bit of patient waiting before the giraffes clear the road for us. We turn off into Tshukudu e Ntsho Road to go and see what Makorwane Dam has in store for us. There’s a huge crocodile and a pod of hippos in the water, but a group of very noisy humans in the hide are spoiling the experience for everyone else and we don’t stick around for longer than necessary to use the ablutions. The view from the bridge over the stream feeding the dam is much more serene.

Back on Tlou Drive and then right on the Nare Link, there’s more wildebeest, red hartebeest and giraffes to see, and then…

“There they are! There they are!” Joubert sees the cheetahs first, some distance away from the road but thankfully out in the open and clearly visible despite the pouring rain. A female cheetah known, fittingly, as “Rain” and her three almost fully-grown cubs. We last saw Rain about 5 years ago, when she was still the only adult female cheetah in the Pilanesberg and already raising a litter of cubs. Since then the Park’s cheetah population has grown considerably, in no small part due to Rain’s success as a mother.

As we are watching the distant cheetahs this very wet black-shouldered kite is keeping an eye on us:

Soppy Black-shouldered Kite

If you’d like to follow along as we explore the Pilanesberg, a map may come in handy (for a large format version click here)

Tlou Drive to Nare Link via Makorwane Hide

If you need to catch up on our drive through the Pilanesberg National Park, you can read all the previous posts here.

To be continued tomorrow.

The bloody fight that never was

At the end of our Satara Summer, on the way to the Kruger National Park’s Orpen Gate from where we were to head back home to Pretoria, we were lucky to see a lone Cheetah resting in the shade of a small thorn tree. Having stopped for a last photo or two, it was Marilize who noticed a Spotted Hyena heading straight towards the Cheetah. Knowing just how hateful the relationship between Africa’s large predators are, we were sure we were probably going to witness a tremendous fight when the two meat-eaters meet, especially when the Cheetah noticed the Hyena, snarled at it viciously, and got up to defend its turf. But turns out this Hyena was not a fighter; he walked straight past the Cheetah as if it wasn’t even there, and not paying the cheetah’s tantrum any attention whatsoever. It was rather amusing seeing the Cheetah standing by himself, looking decidedly confused, as the Hyena disappeared from view…

Encounters with Cheetahs at Imfolozi

Many of our friends here at de Wets Wild are great fans of cheetahs, so they especially would be thrilled to know that we had three wonderful encounters with these lithe cats during our December visit to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.

 

Cheetah on the lookout, Gudzani Road

Cheetah

Acinonyx jubatus

Cheetah (2)

Few animals’ anatomy so clearly describes their way of life as that of a cheetah. With a small head, big chest, long legs, a supple back and a tail used as a rudder that enables it to change direction in a split second, the cheetah is absolutely built for incredible speed.

Cheetahs inhabit areas of open grasslands, bushveld and semi-deserts. Here they prey mostly on small and medium sized antelope, but also on rabbits, jackals and birds up to the size of kori bustards and ostriches. They are independent of water, but will drink when it is readily available.

Cheetah (1)

Cheetahs are diurnal cats, being most active in the early morning and late afternoon, resting up in shady vantage areas during the heat of the day. Both sexes mark and defend large territories, those of females usually being bigger in size than the males’. Females are solitary, except when accompanied by their cubs or a male suitor, while adult males often form coalitions of 2 or more that band together to defend a territory. While hunting and patrolling their territory, cheetahs will readily take to trees, termite mounds and small hills to scan their surroundings. Cheetahs are most famous for being the fastest mammals on the planet, capable of reaching speeds of 100km/h, which they can only maintain for a relatively short distance of 300 to 400m, in pursuit of prey. After such a chase, the cheetah normally takes a few minutes to catch its breath before feeding hastily, as other predators, even vultures and baboons, will rob them of their meal.

Cheetah females give birth to up to 6 cubs at a time. The cubs are hidden in long grass, thickets or rocky outcrops for the first month or two of their lives. They are weaned from as early as 3 months old and the female starts training them to hunt from about 4 months of age. The cubs become independent of their mother between 12 and 20 months after birth, at which time they are forced from her territory. The newly independent cubs roam widely and often have a difficult time of it, until they are successful in establishing a territory of their own. Lions, leopards and spotted hyenas are known to actively hunt and kill cheetahs, and they are susceptible to a variety of diseases. In some populations as few as 5% of cubs reach independence. In the wild, cheetahs live to between 10 and 16 years of age.

Orpen cheetah sighting

Orpen cheetah sighting

The King Cheetah is a beautiful and rare recessive genetic mutation of the cheetah in which the spots are fused into blotches and stripes. Seeing a King Cheetah in the wild occurs very rarely but there are a handful in captivity.

The 4th of December annually is commemorated as International Cheetah Day, to highlight the plight of these lithe big cats. The IUCN considers the cheetah vulnerable to extinction, with a total population of aproximately 7,500 which is believed to be decreasing further. They are threatened by habitat loss, the eradication of their prey base, conflict with livestock farmers and illegal hunting, and have seen tremendous declines in their distribution range. In South Africa wild cheetahs now probably number around 550 animals only, with a considerable percentage of this population persisting outside the big conservation areas in places where competition with larger predators are less of a threat. In our experience, the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, Kruger National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park provides the best opportunities for encounters with wild cheetahs in South Africa.

CheetahDay