Imagine the thrill of coming across two male cheetahs on a kill. It’s such a privilege to see, especially as they have disappeared from an estimated 76% of their historic range in Africa. Their population has declined by at least 30% over the past 18 years, and is primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as killing and capture of cheetahs due to livestock loss as well as for trade. Then imagine you are Simon Capon who has spent years on this reserve researching his thesis for a degree of Master of Science in Conservation Ecology, a thesis that looked at the decline of sable antelope through much of the lowveld. A thesis that aimed to determine the cause of the decline and the continued lack of success in the sable population. And then imagine his mixed emotions when he realised these two cheetahs had killed one of ‘his’ precious sable calves!
Our research department is busy formulating identikits on some of the predator populations, as part of another study, so by looking at the spot patterns of these two cheetahs we know that they are a coalition that was first sighted on the reserve in 2012. They look to be in excellent health and fitness, and it is not uncommon for males to form coalitions for the advantages of hunting success and safeguarding a territory. Let’s hope these two don’t develop a preference for sables in the future!