Tree cheetahs

One of the cheetahs started to move on.

One of the cheetahs started to move on. (Picture by Julio A. de Castro)

Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana, June 2014 . The very high grass and flooded roads around the South Gate area made game viewing rather difficult although the variety of water birds present made up for the hidden mammals. Our lack improved when we moved to Third Bridge. When returning to the camp on our day of arrival we met a pack of wild dogs attempting to cross the bridge. We managed to get a video of this encounter that I will upload as soon as I learn how to! This was the only subject at our dinner conversation until the lions started to roar behind the camp! We decided to look for them the following morning. We calculated that, judging for the roaring direction, that there should have been at a swampy area behind the camp. We got up reasonably early and went for it. While on our way we came across an unexpected sight: two cheetah resting by a pool. There were probably two young males and possibly brothers. We were watching them when they decided to move. Although it was clear that they were not hunting, they look determined so we decided to follow them as much as possible.

They moved towards a fairly large acacia tree and lied down under it. “End of the fun” we thought as it was mid morning. Aware that cheetah hunt during the day as they rely for speed to catch their prey and it is difficult to run at night! So we stayed an extra while, hoping for something to happen. There were many impala and springbok nearby so there was a chance of a hunt.

After a few minutes one of them walked towards the tree and we confirmed its sex by the way it was marking the bushes: it was a male. After the marking was completed to its satisfaction, and to our surprise, it jumped up the tree. Now here I need to clarify that we have seen cheetah using advantage points before (termite mounds and cars) and this was not a surprise. It is believed that they do so while searching for prey.

Cheetah climbing the tree.

Cheetah climbing the tree. (Picture by Julio A. de Castro)

However, this particular animal kept climbing up and up until it was at about three meters from the ground, “perched” rather precariously we thought, on rather high branches.

Despite the poor picture the squares show one cheetah high on the tree while the second one is climbing to join it.

Despite the poor picture the squares show one cheetah high on the tree while the second one is climbing to join it. (Picture by Julio A. de Castro)

There it stayed looking around and quite relaxed. To our surprise, the second animal followed suit and then the two cheetah were high up the tree, looking very much like two leopards! Our first thought was: “will they be able to come down?” The response came after about 30 minutes when, rather effortlessly, they did and decided that the stress of the climb justified a grooming session and a nap. We moved on after this unexpected sight.

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