Cheetahs hunt primarily during the day. They use their incredible speed (up to ) to capture prey, they can run at 104 to 120 km/h for no more than 500 meters.
Because they can sprint this fast for a very limited disance, they have to use stealth to get close to their prey before starting the chase. There are various ways in which they get close to their prey: approaching from down-wind, moving low in the grass and use small rises in the land or vegetation for cover.
Cheetahs trip treir prey during the chase, knocking it off-balance with their claws. They bite the throat or the neck to finish the kill.
Sprinting makes the body temperature of the cheetah go up dramatically, so after a chase, the cheetah needs to rest. It will usually move the kill tot a shaded place, where it can rest and feed.
During our visits to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park we have witnessed various cheetah hunts.
Cheetah youngsters hunting
Four young cheetahs go for a steenbok in the auob riverbed, outcome unknown
We had spotted a group of four young cheetah along the road between 13th and 14th borehole. It looked as if they were scanning the riverbed for prey, but a but later, they slowly walked away.
Approximately fifteen minutes later, a little but closer to 13th borehole, the four cheetah returned. They were looking intently into the riverbed and they quietly crossed the road. It was fun to see how they were all stepping carefully between the prickly bushes.
Upon entering the riverbed, a few started to move to the side and we suspected they were trying to encircle their intended prey animal. We spotted a pair of steenbok under a camelthorn, the potential prey.
When the hunt started, everything happened extremely fast. One of the steenbok ran away, crossing the roiad just before our car, and the cheetah's chased it. The steenbok headed for the dunes and we were unable to see how the chase ended.
Cheetah mother and cubs hunting
Cheetah mother Hanri hunts a spingbok in the Auob riverbed
Early in the morning we had spotted Hanri with her two cubs when they came for a short drink to Rooibrak waterhole. They looked not very well fed and they didn't drink a lot. After the visit to the waterhole the morther walked purposefully along the river bed, the cubs following playfully. After a while they all laid down in the shade of a big tree.
Later that morning we saw them again and they were looking out along the riverbed, where a group of springbok was casually walking towards them. Both mother and cubs laid down very low and the springboks sisn't notice while strolling along the riverbed. After about two thirds of the herd had passed, Hanri jumped up and chased a twice across the riverbed, catching it eventually in the bushes on the other side of the river. The two cubs had jumped up when their mother started the chase, but it looked like they did not know what to do until the hunt was over and they could run to their mom to share the kill.
It was spectacular to see the cheetah chasing the springbok in full speed.
Cheetah hunting near Urikaruus
Cheetah Lisette tries to catch a springbok in the Auob riverbed
We found Lisette early in the morning near Urikaruus.
She more of less stayed in the same place for a long time, sometimes sitting and carefully looking around, most of the time standing.
When a small group of springbok walked by, she hid in de dead branches under the big tree and suddenly sprinted out to chase a springbok.
The distance was probably just too much, the springbok got away and Lisette rested for a while, lying down in the riverbed.
Four cheetah hunting a springbok
Four cheetahs successfully hunt a springbok in the nossob riverbed
Early morning, a family of four cheetahs and a herd of springbok.
All of a sudden there is a panic. Birds flying away, springbok running away. The the cheetahs have started the chase. They manage to catch one springbok. Then, repeatedly, they let it go, just to catch it all over again. It is probably a training session for the young ones in the family group.
Eventually the springbok is killed and feeding starts. By then a lot of black-backed jackals have arrived. First only one or two of the cheetahs take notice and chase the jackals away. But after a while it seems all the cheetahs forget to protect their kill and they all chase the jackals.
Then the jackals take care of the remains, while the cheetahs find a place to lay down in the shade.