We were on an early morning drive on the Bhanyini plains and were watching the two cheetah brothers scouring the area. There were lots of wildebeest with their young calves about and nearby was a bachelor herd of zebra. As the cheetahs took up positions to hunt a calf one of the zebra stallion kept blocking their view.
It is always hard to witness a kill, and sometimes you think now it is the right time for the predator to chase, but for the predator it is not the right time. They see their chances in a different way. These beautiful cats are born to kill and if they don’t kill they will die, but they need to calculate the risks of every hunt to avoid injuring themselves which could lead to starvation and death.
From my Toyota Land Cruiser cockpit, my radar ears picked up lots of different comments from all my passengers: “Why are they waiting?” “Oh! can you stop them? I cannot watch them killing!” “No! Shoot that zebra, we want to see a kill!” It was hard for me to answer them all, so all I said was that Nature will take its course.
The other zebras banded together and the wildebeest quickly herded their calves away to safety. It was so interesting to see that adult zebra can withstand pressure from cheetahs without any problem. The zebras then stampeded and charged at the cheetahs. All the commotion attracted a clan of hyenas that had been sleeping under some bushes nearby. As the cheetah saw their hyena enemies appear they started retreating and the zebras took advantage of this and chased the cats away, before turning heel and galloping off to where the other wildebeest had gone.
The series of photos shows a cheetah skulking past the zebras, then walking off, and the zebras and a wildebeest galloping away once the cheetahs had been chased off.
It is always a pleasure to visit Hwata hide, especially during the late afternoon as a number of wildlife species trickle in for a drink. On this very day we were fortunate enough to be rewarded as we had sat in the hide for close to an hour without any signs of wildlife coming in, due to the availability of water at the natural pans; but then we saw a dominant elephant bull arrive.
This was without a shadow of a doubt, one of my best wildlife experiences ever, and I’m going to share it with you from my own perspective, as I was all alone. I’d headed out to my favourite refuge on the reserve, Lojaan Dam. It’s a dam at the foot of a sandstone outcrop, and it holds an enchantment all its own. There’s a dam wall and the water in front of it had receded leaving a patchwork of dry cracked mud. I parked the vehicle behind a rocky area, took my heavy fixed 400 mm lens and camera, and a weighty sandbag, and climbed over the rocks and on to the dam wall.
It was the usual morning routine of not knowing what we are going to see out there, but the moment you board those beautiful open vehicles your heart is full of joy in knowing that you are going to meet Mother Nature at close quarters. After an early morning cup of Zimbabwe’s finest coffee your eyes are wide open and looking through thick bushes for any movements, especially those of the illusive spotted cats. We went through Banyini open plains and there was lots of plains game, a crash of white rhinos and plentiful birdlife.
I hope you’ve already eaten.
While watching a pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) sleeping near a waterhole in the drizzling rain I noticed a few hooded vultures (Necrosyrtes monachus) skulking about on the ground. Every now and again they would peck at something and eat it, and I wondered what it was since vultures are scavengers, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals. You often see them cleaning up the scraps of meat from a kill made by wild dogs. The dogs hadn’t made a kill nearby, and so it was that my binos and big lens revealed they were eating the wild dogs’ faeces!