A calculating predator

Grumeti · June 2019
By Calson Luka
Field Guide

This month I witnessed how predators are so incredibly good at assessing a situation, weighing up the potential benefits of a hunt and analysing the potential costs or risks at the same time.

We were lucky enough to spot a male cheetah out on the Sasakwa Plains and the animal was hungry. The cheetah was showing all the right signs of looking to hunt and so we waited, watched and hoped for some explosive action to follow.

A small herd of wildebeest were sighted cantering upon the grasslands and they were moving towards the cheetah. Immediately the cheetah reacted and began moving into a position where it would be able to assess the situation a little easier. The wildebeest drew near to the predator, unaware of its presence in the long grasses.

It was incredible to watch the cheetah choosing a feasible target, and this animal was no fool – it knew exactly what it was able to manage and what it could not. Cheetahs have good eyesight and will not just attack blindly, but rather make critical calculations before launching the chase. The cheetah had deduced from this small herd that these animals were going to be tough to bring down as they were all adults.

Then the cheetah noticed another group of wildebeest that were more spread out in their column and so honed in on that group, again looking hard and assessing. It noticed youngsters in the herd… just what it was looking for. The predator had a calf in his sights and began moving in. Thirty seconds later the calf was down and the cheetah had succeeded. What a marvellous experience to have had out on the plains of the Grumeti Reserve.

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