On a clear and cool morning of the 4 January 2015 we headed out of Bayethe lodge down to the southern areas of the reserve to follow up on 4 lionesses that we had seen on our previous afternoon drive.
As we arrived in the area and switched of the engine to listen in on natures messages we picked up on the sound of a cheetah calling frantically for his brother.
We turned to the direction of the sound and saw him in the middle of an open area of grassland looking all around in distress, I realised that there was a potential dramatic story about to unfold as this was where the lionesses had been seen the day before.
Jaques was also in the sighting and he decided to stay with the cheetah while we did a loop around to see if we could locate the missing animal…eventually he showed up from the eastern side and made his way to his brother, of course we were all relieved to see he was alive and well but there was no happy reunion as something else was catching their attention.
After driving closer we noticed that they were staring into a solitary tree in the clearing, I thought that there may have been a recently introduced female cheetah that had been chased into the tree tops by the two territorial brothers…however as i picked up my binoculars for a better look it turned out that the animal in the tree was a female leopard!
What a bonus for us!! However this was obviously a tense situation as both cats were growling at each other and salivating in excitement and aggression.
Eventually the cheetah lost interest and moved back towards the top of the hill where suddenly their bodies tensed up as they were staring in a northerly direction, once again after a quick scan of the area we saw a solitary lioness with a Red Hartebeest kill staring back at the Cheetah!
After a few seconds the cheetah slunk off down the hill in the opposite direction and headed for their own kill which was left hidden in the grass, as they tucked in to the carcass unbeknown to them the other three lionesses had noticed them and quickly made their move to pirate the kill from the cheetah.
Once all of the commotion had settled and it seemed as if the lions won the day we drove off and circled the area in search of a place for a morning cup of coffee and to rejoice in the excitement of how our morning had started and the next moment a female cheetah came running through the scene…not sure whether she had been attracted by the commotion or was making an exit from all the dangers present, either way it was incredible to have had all 3 of Africas big cats in the same scene at the same time!
This was a real highlight for myself and of course for everyone in the sighting as it is very unusual for cheetah to have the upper hand when competing with leopards.
By Richard Kelly
Senior Ranger at Bayethe lodge