On a cold winter’s morning in early July we made our way into the Pilanesberg from Kwa Maritane Gate. Our day started off with a quiet morning as we drove towards the heart of the park but our luck was about to change. Two cheetah females had just made a kill. It must have happened not long before we arrived. The impala was still intact and the cheetahs were about to start feeding. We recognised the two females, they were Rain’s adult offspring from her second litter. Rain, as she was named, was introduced into the park in 2014. At that stage, there were only two cheetah males left. Rain soon fell pregnant and has since raised three successful litters. From her second litter of four, three reached adulthood, two of which were females.
Cheetah are extremely skittish at a kill and they are often driven away by other predators or scavengers. While the two sisters were feeding, they kept looking up before hastily tucking in again. Then something caught their attention. In the distance we could see a family of warthogs trotting in the direction of the cheetahs and their kill. Initially curious, the sisters soon realised the warthogs were harmless and continued feeding. It turned out the warthogs were the ones that got a surprise. Once they sensed the presence of the cheetahs, they wisely moved off at speed. Before long we suspected we were in for more action. A grazing white rhino bull was slowly but surely moving straight towards the two cheetahs. Being upwind of the cheetahs and with a rhino’s poor eyesight, he was bound to be on top of the cheetahs before realising it.
The cheetahs, getting ready to defend their kill, stood up and displayed an aggressive stance towards the huge herbivore that was now grazing only a few metres from them. We held our breaths as we knew the slender cheetahs had no chance should they have to defend themselves against the rhino weighing several tons. The cheetahs stood their ground and the rhino mock-charged, nearly catching one of the cheetahs off-guard, almost hitting her! A brief stand-off ensued but the rhino decided to back down in the end. He veered off and moved out of the way. The sisters resumed their breakfast, lifting their blood-smeared faces from time to time to make sure there would be no further interruptions before they finished their meal. For us, it was the highlight of the day.
Photo story: Dustin van Helsdingen
This story is taken from Pilanesberg Self-Drive.