One of the highlights of this weekend was the return of the cheetah from the North* with her two cubs in time for spring day. She was in good spirits and health, although she has developed an eye complication since we last saw her a fortnight ago. It looks like a slight nick, without swelling, in the corner of her eye and while we are not privy to the cause, one of the reasons might be that she sustained a scratch from either a claw, stick, or even a hoof from struggling prey.
*Thornybush recently removed their fences connecting them to the greater Kruger National Park.
It’s also possible that she has one of several eye conditions. The cheetah species appears to have a limited genetic diversity and this could be responsible for their perceived susceptibility to infections. Eye conditions like feline coronavirus, bartonellosis, toxoplasmosis and cryptococcosis are not lethal in wild cats, so their occurrence is usually noted and closely monitored, rather than unnecessarily and intrusively intervened with.
From this cheetah’s behaviour, it appears she has adjusted to the inconvenience. She is able to easily detect things at a distance, even when resting in shade, and we saw her tracking impala way off without any apparent difficulty. When awake, she and her cubs scanned around diligently, as cheetahs do, without any signs of stress, discomfort or nervousness – just with fixed gazes, as alert for other predators as for potential prey.
They was even a bit of time for play after a lengthy snooze from the time they came in, in the early morning. Although, once mom realised the impala that had been milling around the open area they were resting at the edge of had gone, she decided to move on. She paused and looked ahead for some time in the direction of our airstrip (although just out of sight). This has been a happy hunting ground for her in the several months since she first arrived on the scene. But she decided to loop back in the direction she had come from.
e are hopeful she’ll be back before too long. Maybe the pan near the airstrip will be full next time and she’ll appreciate her visit here even more. But in the meantime, we wish her and her cubs all the best for spring!
Words and photo by: Ranger Jamie Sangster