The story of the Nambiti Reserve’s most successful hunter.
Houdini – Named because of his supernatural ability to escape predators; Nambiti Hills Private Game Lodge’s single male cheetah is considered the Reserve’s most successful hunter – more so than any of the lions. He was born on the property, and is estimated to be around seven years old. Although he had siblings, none but him survived the onslaught of other cheetahs, hyenas and lions – he’s been on his own for five years.
The sight of a cheetah streaking across a wild landscape is one of Africa’s most iconic sights. The fastest mammal on land, this perfectly streamlined and magnificently agile animal can reach speeds of over 100 kilometres per hour. Arguably one of Africa’s most magnificent cats they are, sadly, listed as an endangered species, believed to be close to extinction.
The history of the cheetah is a complex one. In the wild, worldwide, it is estimated that only 7 100 cheetah remain. In South Africa, there are only around 1 326 cheetah.
During the Ice Age, the cheetah population was reduced to such an extent that, nowadays, it is believed that all cheetahs are related – cousins. This affects them negatively when breeding, as inbreeding not only leads to lowered immune systems, but also infertility. It is believed that around 60% of male cheetahs are sterile. Compounding the problem, cheetah females, unlike other cats, choose their mates.
Cheetahs may be excellent hunters, but they lack big claws and bigger canines. Their half-contractible claws help them to grip the ground when running at great speeds, but they only have these as a form of defence against other predators. Cheetahs are built exclusively for speed, and cannot withstand a fight against a leopard or a lion – they will try to avoid confrontation. In addition, cheetahs have huge nasal passages to allow more and easier flow of air, leaving less space for teeth.
Viewing cheetah in the wild is a privilege afforded to few, and increasingly, the opportunity to do so needs to be seized with both hands!
Photography by: Iris Thiriaux – @iris.pictures