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In March of 2010 I was in Tanzania to photograph wildlife in Africa. In 2008 while on a self-drive safari in Namibia I had been very lucky with the wildlife, so I was hoping to capture some more predators in the amazing setting of the Piaia concession. We drove out for an afternoon game drive. Charlie Babault, our guide, soon spotted a cheetah in the grass. When we slowly approached we discovered two youngsters with the mother. The mother tried a few times that afternoon to approach a Thompson's gazelle, but her inexperienced cubs kept giving her away, so it did not look like we were going to get any action shots. As we drove on we stopped on hill to survey the surroundings. I thought I saw something through my binoculars, but was not sure what it was, so I took a picture of it and zoomed in on the LCD display of the camera. The stance was clearly that of a cheetah and not of a hyena as we had originally assumed, so we slowly drove to the valley where a Wildebeest herd was traversing. Charlie got the Landrover in a very good position and we did not have to wait long for the attack. As a surprise, it was not one cheetah, but a brother and a sister. Cheetahs usually hunt on their own, but when they have not yet reached sexual maturity, they tend to collaborate on hunts. One of them attacked and separated a few Wildebeest from the main herd, then the second cheetah came in and chased them down (see the image series).

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The decoy

The female cheetah (running to the right) attacked the herd first making them run. Seconds later her brother joined in separating two adult Wildebeest and one calf from the herd (just above the female cheetah in the image)

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Thinking about it?

Here we see the brother who is closing in on what is now just the mother Wildebeest and her calf. At this point it almost looks like he is considering taking down the mother who is trying to protect her calf from this amazing predator.

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Target locked

The cheetah now has clear view of the calf.

Close call

The cheetah just barely missed making the calf trip here. The agony in the calf's face is horrifying (and so was its bleating).

  • March 5th, 2010
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • 420mm / f/5.6 / 1/2000 sec
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Afterbruner

The foiled attempt at the trip has resulted in the calf gaining some ground, but the cheetah is focused and flying towards it.

  • March 5th, 2010
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • 420mm / f/5.6 / 1/2000 sec
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The trip

This time the cheetah has managed to hit the calf's hind leg and the calf realizes it is over.

  • March 5th, 2010
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • 420mm / f/5.6 / 1/2000 sec
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The last embrace

The two animals touch in a last embrace which almost seems tender.

  • March 5th, 2010
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • 420mm / f/5.6 / 1/2000 sec
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Resignation

At this point there is no more hope for the cute little Wildebeest.

  • March 5th, 2010
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • 420mm / f/5.6 / 1/2000 sec
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Asphyxiation

Full of adrenaline from the hunt, the brother kills the calf by asphyxiation, while the sister already starts to open its stomach (hyena's are close by so there is not much time before they get here and once night falls it won't be safe even for the two of them).

  • March 5th, 2010
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • 420mm / f/4 / 1/1000 sec
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The color of success

Now that the adrenaline is gone they both eat as much as they can before they need to move on. In the far distance we can still hear the low grunting of the surviving herd.

While I felt bad for the calf, this is the way it should be. Survival of the fittest.

  • March 5th, 2010
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • 420mm / f/4 / 1/1000 sec

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shrivant
Shrivant Rajgarhia  almost 5 years ago

beautifully told. thank you for sharing.