Acceleration, teamwork and two classically trained butchers.
Let me elaborate.
Cheetahs are no doubt the fastest land creatures. Capable of reaching 95kmh (59mph), just shy of your average highway cruising speed. But it is not their speed that yields their success, it’s their mind-blowing acceleration. They rarely reach their top speed, in fact, on average only getting up to 53kmh (33mph). It is the absurd acceleration, covering 8m (24ft) per stride that allows them to catch impala, gazelles and small hares, even in the thickest and most technical scrub.
Yesterday, I received word that the two male cheetahs had killed a large male impala along the lakeshore, so the chase was long since over when I arrived. The first thing I noticed with these two males, was their demeanor with one another. Compared to the lions we’re used to filming, they were very chilled. Lions seem to have a split personality and go through a stark transition: allies to make the kill, and then each for themselves once feeding begins. Not only did these cheetahs show no aggression towards one another, they appeared to stand watch for one another. Cheetah have little defense against other major predators: lion, leopard, hyena. Their true weapon is speed and acceleration, but that does little to protect your kill. As one sat in the shade, eating in relative peace, the other stood guard, hyper-aware of any foreign sight, sound or smell. Soon the “watchman” came and began eating, and the other got up and took his spot on duty.
If you had the choice, would you choose Filet or Rump Roast. No brainer, right? Carnivores in the wild are no different, they will all begin by feeding on the same, preferred areas. The cheetahs did just that, and when we returned, there remained a clean calculated dissection.