Monday, October 21, 2002

Masai Mara, Kenya IV

Cheetahs rely on stealth as much as their legendary speed to catch the gazelles that are the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast. One morning this mother stalked three different herds of gazelle with an entourage of three playful cubs and a dozen rumbling diesel trucks. The element of surprise is frequently in short supply, and in spite of hitting highway
speeds, she came back winded and hungry each time. I'd happily share my lunch, but I doubt Pringles and canned curry would settle any better in her stomach than mine.

I do help matters some by accidentally flushing a hiding gazelle fawn from the tall grass. All wobbly legged, she looks like Bambi but the cheetah is in an unsentimental mood,
and has it in her sights instantly. I ponder the ethical and karmic implications of all this as the cheetah walks, then trots and finally throws on a last minute burst of speed to grab the fleeing fawn.

Bambi doesn't stand a chance in hell, not even when mum lets her go. It's
sort of catch and release hunting; training for her cubs. They give chase, tackle and thoroughly maul the fawn before finally having it for lunch. I feel awful for the fawn, but a whole lot worse when my camera jams as I'm shooting her bleating demise. The cheetah cubs feast and grow strong, vast herds of gazelle still fill the plains and mum is already looking around for seconds.

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