I’m sitting here on this Durban day and it’s pouring with rain and it’s made me long for Rain. Rain. The most hardcore cheetah you’ll ever meet.
You know that feeling when you’re sitting at Mugg and Bean and you’re waiting forever for your chicken salad and white wine and when they finally arrive you’re suddenly way too exhausted to tuck in so you just sit there staring at the table and panting? And then the guy sitting at the next table over notices that you’re not doing so good and he’s like, ‘Damn I want that wine‘ and just just takes it? Then the old lady at the table across from you gets in on the action and swipes your salad?
No, you don’t know the feeling. Because we’re not cheetahs.
Cheetahs never have their food handed to them. They have to work like crazy any and every time they want to eat. And by the time they’ve managed to stalk their prey (which can take hours), chase it down, trip it up and choke hold it, they’re just too tired to eat.
It can take them half an hour to get their breath back to the point where they can start consuming whatever they’ve caught. And in the wild, thirty minutes might as well be a lifetime. Anyone who happens to be nearby is going to try and take their chances and steal the cheetah’s kill. We’re talking everyone from lions, to baboons to vultures. They all know how vulnerable the cheetah is, and they’re not afraid to act on it. Everything about the cheetah is designed for speed. They’re not fighters.
Here she is. This is my girl, Rain. She’s Pilanesburg royalty and I’ve had the privilege of watching her make a few kills over the years. This cheetah princess is a real champion to have survived life in Pilanesburg all these years. She can teach you a whole lot about competition.On this day In 2014, she amazed my guests and I by taking down an impala right in the middle of the road. Ten minutes later she managed to drag it into a bush to hide it from prying eyes (and jaws). If you’re ever on safari and get to see a kill, you’re SO DARN LUCKY! Sure it happens every day, because animals like, survive, but you certainly don’t get to see it every day.
When safari guests get on to my vehicle and I ask them what they want to see, ‘a kill’ is often right there on top of the list. It’s something you need to be ready for but you can never be really ready. Nothing prepares you for it. Your brain can’t help you and National Geographic documentaries can’t help you either. I’ve had guests sick and screaming and in tears during kills. I’ve also had them laughing and cheering. It’s emotional. It can be gory and gruesome and thrilling, but it’s life at its rawest and something that’ll stay with you forever. Love you Rain, and thanks for all those memories. Love.
Hoofnote: The collar. ‘Ugh, but it has a collar!’ And wouldn’t you rather have photos of animals without collars? But in places like Pilanesburg, putting collars on cheetahs and other animals of ecological interest is really important and teaches us so much about how they use and interact with a particular space. A space we’ve put them into. When you see see an animal in a game reserve with a collar on, it’s for a good reason. I promise. Never let a little band of leather take away from the experience of a lifetime.