My First Cheetah Kill on Karongwe Game Reserve

By 5 years ago
Categories Limpopo

During my time out here on Karongwe I have continually watched volunteers come back from drive with amazing sightings. Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) brothers on a warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) kill (see blog), our male lion (Panthera leo), Zero, strangling a warthog, a male leopard (Panthera pardus) interacting with two sub-adult hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), a female cheetah making a kill in the back garden, elephant (Loxodonta africana) swimming in a dam, and the list goes on.

Now, I have had my fair share of these sightings as well. How could I forget seeing Ketswiri’s cubs for the first time walking along the road (see blog) or four leopards on a kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) kill.  The one sighting that had been elusive to me, however, was seeing a cheetah kill from start to finish. Other staff, most who started working at GVI later than I did, have seen one, two or even three kills. Though I was always so happy for the trucks when they returned babbling about their amazing sighting, I always wondered when it was going to be my turn.

The morning started out like any other. The day before had been tough for the game drives as many of the focus animals had not been found, and those that had were looking for food. Meaning they were constantly moving.  The two cheetah brothers were especially hungry as they hadn’t eaten for over five days. The moment I called myself out on drive three other game drives contacted me and asked if I could help them find the cheetahs.  Obliging, but knowing how difficult it would be if they hadn’t made a kill last night, I headed to where they were seen the day before. Upon reaching Graham’s Dam, their last known location, I picked up signal but it was obvious they were highly mobile.

Rhi Craig, the Bushwise intern, I and spent an hour searching and tracking the cheetahs, who seemed to be running around in circles. Finally, with Rhi and one of the trackers with me, we walked into the bush in hopes to obtain a visual. After walking into the bush for over 200m we stumbled across the brothers, obviously stalking some antelope we couldn’t see. We held our breath as we slowly continued to follow them.  This continued for five minutes, when they would stop we would stop, waiting for them to make their next move. Jabu, the dominant of the two, moved in front of Djuma and disappeared ahead. Djuma then stood extremely still, crouched and poised, waiting. Then, without warning both of the boys took off into the bush. Seconds later a herd of at least 20 impala (Aepyceros melampus) burst from that same location, running straight for Djuma. Some impala quickly saw it was a trap and changed directions, others were a little too late and stumbled trying to escape Djuma’s quick reflexes. As Djuma started to chase one down, another impala, realizing a little to late where the real danger was, changed directions and headed straight for me. It was only when she was within a metre of me that she realised I was blocking her path. Her realization and attempt to avoid me caused her to stumble and fall to the ground. After a quick recovery she scampered off into the distance, leaving me with my adrenaline coursing through my veins and contemplating how I would have explained that one to the emergency room.  Meanwhile, with my heart still pounding, I turned to witness Djuma and Jabu successfully corner and impala and kill in, all in front of us.

Cheetah boys on a kill they made the
previous year

I didn’t capture the kill on video, I didn’t even bring my camera to photograph the aftermath, but I do know that this moment will remain as one of my favourite memories at GVI. I wasn’t obstructed by bushes, the cheetahs felt comfortable in our presence, and, most importantly, I didn’t watch it through a lens, I got to experience it for myself. So many times I get so worried about getting the right photograph to look at afterwards, that I miss the actual event. And for something like cheetahs hunting and killing, I would not have had the skill or the luck to be able to document the whole thing and it would not have given me the same satisfaction. So, lucky for me, without lens or video, I witnessed one of nature’s most amazing sightings all within 10 metres. A memory I will never forget, it is a reminder how lucky anyone is to live and experience the bush here at GVI Karongwe.

—-Kaggie Orrick, Base Manager GVI Karongwe