June 19: Cheetahs, Kills and Ethics


A Kalahari Cheetah. Not tonight’s Kalahari Cheetah. Some other Kalahari Cheetah.

And the trend for ‘strange’ continues in the Kalahari. Tonight’s sunset drive left me in awe again.

The much anticipated snow never came, but it rained in its place. And it rained on the sunset drive tonight. Quite a lot. And there was thunder. And in these conditions, there were things we’d never expect to see…

On our way home we stopped to watch a jackal. By this time it was completely dark. No moon, no stars, just dark and rain and thunder.  Good weather for jackals. Not good weather for much else. And yet moving the spotlight a few meters to the right of the jackal as we were about to leave, revealed a cheetah. A cheetah panting over a freshly killed springbok.

And while this is one of the very coolest spectacles in nature, it’s here you have to shout ‘lights off!

Cheetahs are active by day. They hunt during the day too. And there’s a good reason for this. In the light, there aren’t so many other predators walking about. Kalahari cheetahs   can lose as many as half of their kills to other predators. Brown Hyenas are one of their biggest bullies. And the night is when the Brown Hyena is on the prowl for a free meal. There’s no freer meal than a dead springbok guarded by lone cheetah struggling for breath in the darkness.

Tonight’s cheetah took countless risks and did what few cheetahs are ever prepared to do.  The least we could do was turn off the light and give it some dark. Any predator anywhere nearby wouldn’t hesitate to take the kill away- or worse. In a situation like this, ethics must always come first, even if it means missing out on a big cat sighting. We couldn’t give away the cheetah’s vulnerable position. After i’d taken ten minutes to explain all of this and more to my guests (and they all agreed about the ethical bit- hooray), we had a quick scan with a dimmed light to see if the cat was still there. Fortunately, it had dragged the springbok into a dip and long disappeared. I hope more than anything that it got the meal it deserved.

The last few days have been full of so many unexpected surprises from animals that haven’t bothered to read the mammal behaviour books. So what’s next….?


Small Spotted Genet
African Wild Cat
Cape Fox
Bat Eared Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Scaly Feathered Finch
Spotted Eagle Owl

2 thoughts on “June 19: Cheetahs, Kills and Ethics

  1. mouse2012 says:

    What a great sighting! It’s a very weird thing about animals very few read the manuals and even fewer follow to the letter! Lucky to have you around to do the ethical thing. Miss you so much! xxx


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