Saturday, 26 February 2011

Just like mum! Cheetah cubs pictured climbing trees at Masai Mara safari camp

Still covered in their baby fluff and balancing on legs that seem too long for their bodies, these young cubs look to be a long way from joining the ranks of adult cheetahs. But that doesn't stop them wanting to be just like mum.

Spotted outside the Kicheche Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara, the six balls of fledgling fur attempt to follow their mother up an acacia tree as she looks out over the plains.

cheetah cubs

And she has every reason to be watchful. While the cheetah is the fastest mammal on the planet, the initial months of the average cub's existence are fraught with danger. The animal relies on its speed for survival as well as sustenance - and the first few weeks of life, when cubs lack the power that will make them lethal predators once they reach adulthood, are extremely difficult.

Around 90 per cent of cheetahs are killed during this time, their size and diminutive stature leaving them vulnerable to attack from larger African predators, including lions, hyenas and leopards.

cheetah cubs 01 cheetah cubs 02

The species is deemed to be endangered. Estimates suggest some 12,500 cheetahs are alive in the wild, spread across 25 African countries. Namibia has the densest population - the southern African state is believed to be home to around 2500 of the cats.

Still, this sibling sextet does not seem to be doing too badly, as these exclusive photos show - even if the feline art of climbing a tree seems to come easier to some than it does to others.

cheetah cubs 03

While one youngster makes it halfway up the trunk, finds a crook in a branch - and refuses to give up his hard-won spot - another cuts his losses and springs back to the ground. Meanwhile, what appears to be the smallest club waits contentedly below the tree, showing no concern about trying to keep up with his adventurous siblings, preferring the view from ground level.

cheetah cubs 04 cheetah cubs 05

Another, meanwhile, makes it all the way to the top of the tree, finding the position furthest removed from potential threat - but also risks the wrath of mum by placing himself right under her feet as she continues her lonely sentry role.

Although the cubs look ungainly here, cheetahs are among the most agile creatures on earth, able to reach speeds of up to 75 miles per hour - faster than the UK speed limit, and any other land animal. In peak condition, they can accelerate from a standing start to 60 miles per hour in three seconds.

cheetah cubs 06 cheetah cubs 07

They are also among the most elusive of the wild big cats - and can be particularly tricky to spot when they are protecting their young. Moreover, they are rarely seen climbing trees.

But lucky guests at the luxury tented Kicheche Camp, on the borders of the Masai Mara Reserve, were treated to this rare display earlier this month, as the cubs took advantage of their mum's rare foray into the branches to have a go at scampering up and down the acacia themselves.

cheetah cubs 08

"Cheetahs seldom climb trees, leaving clambering to leopards with their sharper claws," explains Kicheche's Paul Goldstein, who took the images. "But for youngsters of three months, acacia trees are leisure centres, and these six lost little time in frolicking up and down its trunk.

cheetah cubs 09

"But the mother has a worrying time ahead of her. Bringing up a brood of cheetah cubs is one of the toughest tasks on the plains. And seldom successful."This mother had her brood in Tanzania, but as soon as I had a report that she had left the Serengeti and come across the border into the Mara, I immediately headed down there.

"For several days we found them early, and the guests I was guiding were astonished by their antics. As was I. We saw them crossing rivers and clambering over termite mounds - but this was the high point, literally.

"Mother would never normally climb an acacia, but she was very hungry - her concave belly shows that - and she needed an elevated 'view to a kill.'"Sadly, I think the mum will have to abandon them early, as there are just too many mouths to feed."That said - although one should not get attached to animals, it is hard not to. And last week I learned that they were all still alive. Which is frankly astonishing." For more information on Kicheche Mara Camp

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1 коментара:

Devon hotels said...

very rare captures, that is why I adore this kind of captures....hope to see another cheetah captures.

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