Late for Lunch

Being late for lunch has become a habit- not deliberately, but because of circumstance. Twice we found leopard close enough to camp that I’d already radioed in our arrival. The second time, we were even able to return to spend the afternoon alone with her. Two other experiences involved cheetah. Of all the cats, cheetah are known to be the least aggressive. Hunting by sight during the day, they also habitually climb termite mounds or sloping tree trunks to get a good vantage. On occasion, especially in areas with many vehicles such as Maasai Mara, they habitually use vehicles as a vantage. This happened for us, and the first instance with a cub made us an hour late for lunch, but the second made us 6 hours late for lunch.
A cheetah on my roof.
 Heading back to camp for lunch, I stopped one last time to scan the plains for cheetah. It’s always that last scan that gets me in trouble. Sitting in typical cheetah pose was a massive male. His belly size told me he was hungry and as a diurnal hunter, I suspected he would hunt. As he posed for the photographers in the vehicle, I scanned for prey. Low on the horizon I noticed another cheetah.  With no hunt imminent, we decided to visit the new cheetah and drove up to what turned out to be a female. Within 30 seconds of driving up to her, she ran up to the vehicle, seemingly agitated, circled, and leapt onto the roof. She completed ignored our presence, we were able to stand and watch while she stared intently on the male.

She keeps him away.
Cheetah mating is rarely observed. A friend who studied them in Serengeti for six years only saw them courting once, so when our cheetah jumped off the car and took off toward the male, I knew lunch was inevitably becoming dinner. The literature describes cheetah mating with words like kidnapping, rape, and hostage. There’s a lot of dancing that goes on and despite running toward him, at about 400m she became cautious and laid down. He hadn’t noticed her, so she jumped back onto the car. His approach became a stalk which prompted her to take cover next to the vehicle. We sat for 3 hours Every time he would approach she would lash out at him until eventually he gave up and ran off. 

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