Cover stories: Cheetah chase

Egil Dröge shares the high-energy story behind issue 55:6’s cover photo. See more of how the day unfolded in this gallery.

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I followed this female cheetah that day on her hunt. She would frequently use the small termite mounts to take the advantage of the elevation to scan the tall grass for prey. At some point, while she was walking through the tall grass, she flushed a pair of oribis (a small antelope). She did something I had never seen before and have never seen since. As the oribi had already spotted her and were running away, I expected her to continue walking as she’d ben seen and her chance of catching an oribi was gone. But instead she followed the oribi, not in a flat-out sprint, but at a speed that meant the distance between them remained roughly the same. At some point, the oribi stopped to check behind and see if they were safe from the cheetah. At that moment she accelerated to full speed and quickly caught up the surprised oribi! This didn’t end well for one of the oribi; the subsequent chase was short and the kill was quick. While she dragged the oribi to a clump of taller vegetation to feed in a more hidden position she flushed a scrub hare, which she killed after a short chase and then consumed completely before starting to feed on the oribi. Fortunately for her no hyenas or lions showed up so she could enjoy the rewards of her efforts and I left her alone while she was still feeding on the oribi.

Photos © Egil Dröge (WILDCRU).

Corresponding paper: Changes in African large carnivore diets over the past half‐century reveal the loss of large prey by Scott Creel et al.

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