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In the wild, only the fittest survive and hunger is no one’s friend. To fill an empty stomach one has to be strong, brave and sometimes even cunning.

In love with the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and an annual visitor to this arid landscape, Wild Card member Charmaine Joubert is often amazed by South Africa’s incredible wildlife. She was thrilled to see how three cheetahs stalked and killed a young antelope, but what happened next…

“It was our last night in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and we were staying at Kieliekrankie Wilderness Camp. We decided to drive up the Auob River for a late afternoon game drive as we’d previously spotted two groups of cheetahs between Kamqua and Gemsboksplein waterholes,” says Charmaine.

Near Montrose Waterhole she was surprised by not one, but three cheetahs relaxing on the dunes and looking down on a group of springbok grazing in the riverbed. “We had just stopped the car when they slowly made their way down the dune. Then, all of a sudden, with incredible speed and agility, the trio targeted and caught two springbok lambs. I managed to capture one of the cats in full speed after anxiously moving our car up to where the first kill had taken place.”

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Like a bullet from a gun, one of the three cheetahs races towards a vulnerable springbok lamb. Pictures by Charmaine Joubert

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There’s no escaping the fatal grip of a cheetah.

With the lambs dead, two of the cheetahs dragged their dinner into the long grass, while the cheetah pictured above split from the group and opted for a spot further away in the middle of riverbed. “The two closest to us tucked in, while the third, clearly agitated, was continually harassed by tawny eagles. Mr Don’t-disturb-me then dragged his kill across the riverbed, which brought him close to us.”

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Very aware of its surrounds, the cheetah makes sure the coast is clear before tucking in.

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Did you know that cheetahs can reach up to 100 km/h (and even more!) over short distances?

Not so fast

“While all of this was unfolding, I wondered how easy it would be for a bigger cat to sweep in and steal their kills… Little did I know that within a few minutes two juvenile lions would do exactly that! Just when the cheetah reached its partners in crime, it unexpectedly dropped its kill and fixed its eyes on a nearby dune with much hissing and snarling. What was happening?

“A lion! A young male lion rushed in and grabbed the closest kill, but quickly dropped it for the second lamb, which was bigger in size. The cheetahs made a run for it…”

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Opportunistic? Perhaps just famished…

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The juvenile cat makes off with its spoils.

But nothing in the wild is as simple as walking away with another predator’s meal. Soon a second lion made its appearance and a fight ensued as they quibbled over the tiny lamb.

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There will be no sharing!

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Satisfied and with a full belly, this lion is ready for another day in the Kgalagadi.

“It was such an incredible sighting, truly depicting nature’s harsh realities. We sat in awe as we watch the whole scene unfold right next to our car. We have had some incredible sightings in all the years we have visited the numerous national parks in South Africa and this was our third cheetah kill. Although the sighting lasted mere seconds, it was most certainly one of the best.”

Charmaine will return to the Kgalagadi in February 2018 for her annual holiday.

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