I was driving along the one public road that connects our reserve to the Gonarezhou National Park, musing to myself that apart from a massive herd of about 600 buffalo it had been a relatively quiet morning. Then I slowed down for a cheetah.
I snapped back into the moment thinking that cannot possibly be true – a cheetah, Africa’s most endangered cat, just lying in the dappled shade on the side of the one public road. Making a slow and cautious approach in the gameviewer I saw it was a male, and was sure there would be another around – and there was, he was just in the grass fringe.
I sat with them both for some time, and the one got up from the fringe, strolled over to where I was parked near his brother, flopped down and initiated a mutual grooming session.
They were so content, but this ended all to soon when a public vehicle came past. They immediately got up, crossed the road and disappeared into the bush – an all too clear reminder of how slowly and cautiously we all need to drive when in a wildlife reserve.
There is a Cheetah Conservation Project for Zimbabwe that aims to conserve cheetahs through applied research, education, collaboration and capacity building. When they started their project it quickly became apparent that there was little reliable information available on cheetah distribution in Zimbabwe, which is why they are currently carrying out a countrywide cheetah population survey. By sending them ID photos (side-on view of their bodies for the spot pattern) they were able to tell me that these two males are about 7 years old, and are related to a female cheetah with a short tail that we see on occasion.
If you’d like to find out more about this conservation initiative visit http://www.cheetahzimbabwe.org.