sabi sabi ranger stories
it's never a surprise
It's never a surprise to see game at Xivambelane, our staff village about one kilometre from the lodge. Unfenced, we often have an elephant drinking from our pool or lions walking past our doors.
So once again, one morning, while waiting for our staff vehicle, I had the pleasure of looking at a male bushbuck. He was eating the new grass in front of my neighbour's room. I always marvel at how much these wild animals are at ease around us, because he was less than ten meters away from me.
A female cheetah caught my attention as she was sprinting at great speed towards the bushbuck. She might have come from the top of a termite mound about fifty meters to my left. The only object dividing us was a tree that was pushed over by elephants a couple of days ago.
She obviously never noticed me standing there, because she had kept her eyes on her prey. She seemed to be moving in on her kill exceedingly fast with head up and ears alert. Her movements reminded me of a greyhound, but with the added stealth of a cat. I had her in full sight for only a couple of seconds before she reached the bushbuck.
She did not alter her speed for a second as she yanked the buck off its legs and on its rear with her paw. It almost seemed as if they fell together, but she rammed him in mid-air, with force, into my neighbour’s door.
The loud bang drowned out the sound of her ferocious growl and the agonizing bleat of the buck for only a moment. In one movement was she on top of him, pinning the struggling buck down with both claws and chest while lunging for his throat. She somehow ended up behind the buck, with her death hold secured, still pinning him down. His flailing hoofs did not help him escape from such a vice like grip, even though he was almost bigger than she was.
The moment the bushbuck's struggle has ceased, her sub adult cub, making a high pitched yapping sound, came over to join her. It was at this moment that I realized I was still standing at my open doorway. Quickly reaching over to close it, I alerted them of my presence. She started dragging her kill away, keeping it between her legs. It was a task that proved difficult for her since it was so heavy. She also kept her attention on the predator that has interrupted her kill - me.
I was a threat and even when she dragged her kill away into the long grass, she didn't relax. They did not lose sight of where I was standing for a second, by then I was inside my room, dialling my sleeping neighbour's numbers to have them share in my experience.
Our guides have told me that out of hundreds of studied cheetah kills, only half of them are successful and that I was extremely privileged to have experienced one of nature’s most amazing hunts. I agree with them - it was almost indescribable.