June 19: Cheetahs, Kills and Ethics

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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….?

Sightings:

Cheetah
Small Spotted Genet
African Wild Cat
Cape Fox
Bat Eared Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Springhare
Springbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Scaly Feathered Finch
Spotted Eagle Owl
Dikkop

June 18: Strange Things are Afoot in my Kalahari…

Wow. Odd things are happening in the Kalahari this week. Yesterday morning before dawn, i’m woken by strange noises outside. I flip on the light expecting to see my garden porcupine and instead I find Africa’s largest antelope, an Eland, standing at my front door and peering into my kitchen. And tomorrow, they’re forecasting SNOW.

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By the time there was light for a photo, my pet Eland had moved down the street.

And tonight’s sunset drive was just as weird and wonderful.

First up was the African Wild Cat who pulled off the perfect hunt for us and caught a mouse right by the vehicle.  That was to be the first of SEVENTEEN Wild cats tonight.

At one point we stopped for another WIld Cat, only to find it was with nine others. A whole herd of ten Wild Cats. And none were ducklings either. Ten adult African Wild Cats. I couldn’t believe it and I don’t think i’ll ever see it again. Pretty good going for a solitary cat species…

Another thing i’ll never see again? A perfectly posed Cape Fox. Moments later, it’s joined by a perfectly posed Polecat. They were like BFF’s. Every now and then, the Polecat stopped to dig. So it may be that their beautiful friendship was based on exploitation, the same way a Jackal scoops up mice that escape from a digging Honey Badger. I even took a photo.

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This is going to be one of my favourite photos. Best Friends Forever.

Oh, and then a Brown Hyena ran across the road in front of us.

Love love love Kalahari.

Sightings:

Polecat
Brown Hyena
Cape Fox
Bat Eared Fox
African Wild Cat
Black Backed Jackal
Springhare
Scrubhare
Steenbok
Mouse
Whistling Rat
Gemsbok
Springbok
Wildebeest
Gabar Goshawk
Kori Bustard
Black Chested Snake Eagle
Black Headed Heron
Ostrich
Barn Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl

June 10: It Was Cold. That is All.

It was cold tonight. It was very, very cold. It was too cold. But nobody told the animals it was too cold and we had awesome sightings on the night drive tonight. Awesome sightings warm your heart, but not your toes…

Sightings:

Brown Hyena
Small Spotted Genet
African WIld Cat
Jackal
Springhare
Spotted Eagle Owl
Gemsbok
Springbok
Kalahari Moose