It had been a while since we had seen our resident cheetah family on the Footsteps side of the Shinde concession. We had regular sightings in 2016 but these elusive cats seemed to have disappeared for the early half of this year.
It was a cool autumn morning when I was transferring guests from the airstrip to Footsteps camp, scanning the open grasslands of Footsteps I spotted two cheetah sitting in the grass. As we approached I noticed that this was the female who inhabited the area last year and to my surprise she had a cub sitting next to her – perhaps this could explain the reason for her leaving the area temporarily, there are a lot of lion, wild dog and hyena on this part of the concession – all would be a major threat to her cub.
The cub was providing great entertainment for all of us as he was climbing up and down a dead mopane tree whilst the female seemed very alert, constantly scanning the area and keeping watch over her cub.
She seemed relaxed with the vehicle so I took the opportunity to move closer to her so my guests could make the most of this magical photo opportunity. As we approached we sadly saw the remains of her other six-month-old cub just next to her and from the tracks in the vicinity, it looked as though wild dog had killed the cub.
The joy and excitement of the sighting turned into a quiet sadness as everyone grasped the reality of the incident. The abundance of predators on the concession also means that there is a constant battle for survival and Cheetah, being the most shy and cautious of all the predators, seem to fall victim to this battle for territory.
Although the sighting ended on a sad note, the positive is that this female cheetah successfully raised two cubs last year and we hope that she can do the same with this cub!
Story and images by Omphile Kaluluka (Specialist guide at Footsteps)