The spectacular open plains of Marataba provide the ideal environment for cheetahs. It was with great excitement that a coalition of two brothers was introduced to the reserve in December 2014. They were brought in from Kwa-Zulu Natal and instantly acted as if they had been here all their lives.
They immediately set out to explore their new territory and the rangers spotted them along the boundary of the park to the west. The highly endangered cats eventually made their preferred residence the Kameeldraai Plains, and our guides were able to spend afternoons watching the brothers hunt, targeting the wildebeest herds with the young calves.
On one particular day, the cheetahs were lying in the center of the plains, bathed in the afternoon light, as the diurnal game slowly began to retire for the night. A small herd of oryx (gemsbok) crossed over savannah and the two brothers moved into stalk mode, unbeknownst to the oryx, and began the pursuit of their target.
They picked up pace and leaped onto a hapless little calf. One cheetah was onto the rump, while the other grabbed the neck. Suddenly there was an almighty roar – mistaken for a lion – and something came charging from the opposite side. It was the youngster’s mother, head down and charging the cheetahs. Using those magnificent horns, she charged repeatedly and eventually freed her calf. They both returned to the herd, and the two cheetahs were left with nothing but dust.
The brothers were able to hunt successfully and survived well for a few weeks. Sightings dwindled, and they were seen in the south, nearby the Marakele National Park. It’s believed that they have moved into the section, hence their absence on our side. Although there has not been any further update of their status, everyone remains optimistic.
The great news is that we’re expecting 6 new cheetahs! A female with 4 youngsters, and a mature male. The new group of cheetahs may draw the brothers out to the Marataba concession again.
We’ll be sure to keep you updated!
Written and photographed by: Marataba Field Guide Liam Charlton