Cheating the odds

Pamushana | February 2019

We were on an early morning drive on the Bhanyini plains and were watching the two cheetah brothers scouring the area. There were lots of wildebeest with their young calves about and nearby was a bachelor herd of zebra. As the cheetahs took up positions to hunt a calf one of the zebra stallion kept blocking their view.

It is always hard to witness a kill, and sometimes you think now it is the right time for the predator to chase, but for the predator it is not the right time. They see their chances in a different way. These beautiful cats are born to kill and if they don’t kill they will die, but they need to calculate the risks of every hunt to avoid injuring themselves which could lead to starvation and death.

From my Toyota Land Cruiser cockpit, my radar ears picked up lots of different comments from all my passengers: “Why are they waiting?” “Oh! can you stop them? I cannot watch them killing!” “No! Shoot that zebra, we want to see a kill!” It was hard for me to answer them all, so all I said was that Nature will take its course.

The other zebras banded together and the wildebeest quickly herded their calves away to safety. It was so interesting to see that adult zebra can withstand pressure from cheetahs without any problem. The zebras then stampeded and charged at the cheetahs. All the commotion attracted a clan of hyenas that had been sleeping under some bushes nearby. As the cheetah saw their hyena enemies appear they started retreating and the zebras took advantage of this and chased the cats away, before turning heel and galloping off to where the other wildebeest had gone.

The series of photos shows a cheetah skulking past the zebras, then walking off, and the zebras and a wildebeest galloping away once the cheetahs had been chased off.