Hugs and Kisses
These two cheetah cubs, at Lake Ndutu, Tanzania, spent most of an entire morning romping about and chasing each other. We spent 3 hours with this family, which consisted of a mother, her 3 cubs, and a younger cub that the mother had "adopted" from an older daughter. The survival rate of Cheetah cubs in the wild can be as low as 5%, and an experienced mother knows that the more cubs she has in her litter, the more likely it is that they will survive. Of course she put the survival of her daughter's cubs at risk in the process. These big babies are closing in on 18 months of age, which is the normal time that Cheetahs leave the comfort and safety of mom. Cheetahs kill most of their prey by strangling it, and though this bite looks playful and sweet, it's an important survival skill. Territorial Cheetah males sometimes kill their own kind if one happens into another's territory. For now, however, these siblings shared hugs and kisses in the cool morning weather.
Near Lake Ndutu, Tanzania, we spent a morning with a momma cheetah and her cubs. These two, played chase through a flock of Guinea Fowl. Cheetah cubs stay with their mother for approximately 18months. This pair are almost ready to leave home. Though Cheetahs are generally solitary animals, brothers often stay together for several years defending a unified territory. The Cheetah infant mortality rate can be as high as 95%, so it was a real treat to see such a healthy, nearly grown family.
The weather at Lake Ndutu, Tanzania was cold and foggy. Undeterred, we headed out at first light in the hopes of seeing the wildebeest herd giving birth. Before we found the first female herd, however, we spotted these hyenas enthusiastically enjoying the remains of a zebra that lions had recently killed. The Scene felt like something out of a gothic novel, and the fog amplified the sounds of crunching bones and tearing skin. The lake Ndutu region is gorgeous in all weather, but seeing it in the fog was lent special insight into the ecosystem. The moment this hyena turned to look at us with dripping flesh in it's mouth, I knew I had captured the feeling of this special place, on this unusual day.