When Friday rolled around we said goodbye to the week and could not have predicted the fortuitous events that occurred in the Klaserie over the weekend. It is amazing how a hint of rain can shift the dynamics in the bushveld. The plains game, water-loving bovids and pachyderms are indulging in the spoils of the recent rains. The new rains bring with it a fresh burst of flora and infusion of colour into the dreary bushveld; and with it there are births a plenty.
A profusion of new life in the Klaserie is upon us. With so much herbivore activity and “little ones” weaving through thickets and frolicking in open areas, it means our big cats are on standby for easy meals. Our powerful, stealthy and seductive cats lie in wait and observe the innocent enjoying their life.
Two such cats, the cheetah and leopard seized the opportunity to take down prey this weekend. So much food about – what to do, what to do. A graceful female cheetah put in the time, effort and work and was rewarded with a hearty meal after a successful hunt. Our young leopardess, White Rock, being somewhat of an opportunist, decided that the female cheetah should be dislodged from her meal. With her conniving thieving antics, White Rock stole the cheetah’s kill.
Guests at both Africa on Foot and nThambo Tree Camp managed to see the cheetah while they were out on game drive. The cheetah hadn’t conducted her kill yet, but when photographer Kevin arrived at the scene after the guests had left, he noticed her feeding on succulent morsels. Later on, during the evening game drive, guests spotted White Rock feeding on what was the cheetah’s kill! It is clear this graceful and masterful leopardess had stolen the kill from under the cheetah’s nose.
When a cheetah conducts a kill, it tries to eat its quarry as quickly as possible to avoid theft from other carnivores. They don’t like confrontation and have no strength to overpower more solid carnivores and other cats. A cheetah will disappear as quickly your bank balance over the festive season if confronted.
Cheetah use their balance, agility and speed to conduct kills but when it comes to strength – that’s for leopards. There’s a moral code in the bush, honour among thieves if you will. The stronger cat may steal the prey. In this case, White Rock took the gap and snuck off with the meal. Cheetah’s are not above thieving and nor are leopards.
Here are the key differences between the leopard and cheetahs feeding and hunting techniques :
- Speed – Cheetah : Cheetahs can reach speeds of up to 110 – 120 km/h and their tail acts as a rudder when high speeds are reached. They can only sustain their top speed for a few hundred metres, which is why they have to stalk until they are in close proximity to their quarry.
- Strength and Surprise – Leopard : Leopards are incredibly powerful cats and have the ability to hoist prey heavier than themselves up into trees. During the hunt the stalk is the major part of the play. Leopards get within 10 metres of their prey and then pounce. They prey is grappled to the ground.
- Savouring the Meal – Leopard : Because leopards can hoist their prey out of the way of other predators, they’ll stash their kill in a tree for safekeeping. This means they can feast on the kill for days and make the meal last.
- Eating Quickly – Cheetah : Cheetah have to eat their meal quickly because they don’t have the power to fight of scavengers and their competition. They eat on the ground, which makes meal time risky.
- Fussy – Leopards and Cheetah : Leopards are quite fussy and will pick off hair, feathers and discard innards. They’ll bury the innards to mask the scent of a fresh kill. Cheetah are extremely fussy and discard much of the carcass in favour of the clean meat.
Two cats, one meal and honour among thieves. The Klaserie Private Nature Reserve never fails to impress us with big cat sightings.