Jane and Martin are lucky enough to spot a cheetah looking for lunch
09 Jan 2020
18 Jun 2020
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The cheetah walked nonchalantly towards the safari van. Those onboard popped their heads through the lifted sardine can lid, cameras at the ready. They couldn’t believe their luck that the cheetah had chosen their van to visit. She crouched low and sipped some water from a puddle, made by the tyres of the vehicle. Then, raising her head, she walked steadily off, through a gap in the circus of vehicles round her, out onto the plain.
She walked purposefully, but unhurriedly, sniffing the air. It looked as if she was hunting, but there was nothing visible for her to hunt. Some wildebeests stood out on the horizon, but otherwise, the plains were bare. She stopped and sniffed the air. Onward she walked. Some distance ahead, some Thompson gazelles moved left to right in the tree line. She wasn’t hurried. Then, some nearer gazelles moved right to left, running towards her.
A 30-40metre sprint, seconds and she had a gazelle.
She sat up, the body limp, and surveyed the land. She was rightly uneasy - some hyenas were running in the opposite direction, their scent carried on the wind. Her kill could easily be stolen. The wind was in her favour, they never turned. Still, she looked around, before beginning to eat. Every few minutes, she sat up and looked about her. Still nothing. After about 20 minutes, now her face was stained with blood, the first vultures started circling overhead. First one, then two, until seven circled. They seemed reluctant to come down. Slowly, they circled lower til first one, then a second, dropped to the ground, some way away. Gradually, more congregated. A youngster flew in quite near and surveyed the scene. She watched warily, whilst still continuing to eat. Her belly began to swell, full of her lunch.
More vultures arrived, including two lappet vultures and two Maribou storks. The youngster made an ill-timed approach and was quickly chased off by the cheetah. The vultures bide their time. Now there were 50 Ruppells Griffin vultures and the backups of the storks and lappers. They seemed reluctant to repeat the young vulture's mistakes. The cheetah continued to munch. There seemed precious little gazelle left to feed more than 50 vultures. She started to crunch the bones of the head. It seemed impossible that she could fit any more in! Eventually, when truly satiated, she moved away, and the vultures dived in.
She seemed to momentarily feel that she’d made a mistake, before walking slowly away. The vultures and storks argued and tussled over the remains when 3 hyenas galloped full pace towards the hoards. In one dived, removing some shreds of skin and a front leg of the gazelle, and stopping to tear at the skin, when another hyena removed it from the first and ran off with it.
In just an hour and a half, the running, jumping gazelle had become nothing, no trace remaining.