The past few weeks we have been treated many astonishing sightings, but one thing that has stuck out is the number of cats we’ve been seeing in trees!
When one thinks of a cat in a tree, one probably assumes a leopard, which are known for this kind of behaviour. However, this has not been the case. There have been a number of sightings where the two dominant male cheetahs of Marataba have been spotted up very large trees. There have also been sightings where lions have been seen climbing trees, particularly lion cubs.
The main reason we suspect the two male cheetahs have been seen up these large trees is that they are marking their territory. It is the rainy season at the moment at Marataba and when it rains a lot, the scent of animals that mark territories is washed away. Thus, animals such as rhinos, lions, leopards and even cheetah have to re-mark their territories. They become very active in doing so after the rains.
Interestingly, and a bit unusual, the cheetah has been seen defecating and urinating at the tops of trees. The reason for scent marking so high up in a tree is that the scent is carried further by wind, possibly making other opposing males wonder how their counterparts managed to climb so high.
Another reason for cheetahs climbing trees is that the cheetah’s preferred hunting habitat is open plains. Therefore, using a bit of height they get a vantage point to scope out prey to hunt. They are not built for climbing trees, but rather for speed, and the tree that is often chosen does have a gradual gradient relative to some of the trees that leopards can climb.
There has also been a spike in the sightings of lions and lion cubs in trees. This can correlate to the rainy season (November-March) where there are a lot of flies around. With lions not having the best breath and not smelling too appealing they attract plenty of flies.
Words and photos by: Russell Anderson