A Learning Curve

One morning, while we were out in the Serengeti Plains looking for cheetah, we came across a solitary female who looked hungry and appeared to be working the scrubby bushes as if she was hunting hares.

We watched as she swept the area for some time, until she suddenly stopped and called in a high pitched chirping call, and then looked around. Clearly she was calling her cubs.

After a couple of minutes the mother’s two cubs came out of the hiding place that they had been instructed to stay in while she hunted. As they bounded towards her, she led them off to a spot nearby and sat down.

The cubs seemed to be interested in something in the grass, and only after several minutes did we see the young gazelle fawn lying at their feet.

The cubs, with some prompting from their mother, started pawing at the fawn in an attempt to get it to move. After being harassed enough, the fawn stood up and took off, immediately causing the cheetah cubs to chase it.

They harried the fawn for some time, trying to trip it up and pin it to the ground, and making very amateur attempts to bite and kill it. The mother watched these goings on, and only very occasionally got involved. Her aim was to help the cubs, and to teach them how killing should be done.

When enough had been learned and the need to eat became more of a priority, the cheetah mother killed the fawn and started feeding.

Half way through the meal, the mother decided that she needed shade. There was not a tree for miles around, and the only shade available was under our vehicle, so it was there that she took up refuge, followed shortly by her cubs and their meal!



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