Sunday, June 10, 2007
If the lion gags to death on a man he is eating, who killed who?
One hot afternoon while hunting along the Limpopo River in the Northern Province of South Africa I happened upon a baby Cheetah whose siblings had been killed by lions. Somehow he managed to stay hidden avoiding a most certain demise. Lions killing young Cheetahs is a common occurrence in the food chain since they are only trying to eliminate any other predators that may attempt to share in what the king of beast feels belongs to them.
I tossed my coat over him while he instinctively lay motionless under some thorns but to my surprise he seemed to welcome my touch possibly he had some ability to detect friend or foe. Equally as surprising was learning that Cheetahs are the only large cat found in Africa that are considered to be great pets. Cheetahs are the only member of the large cat family that not only can be easily domesticated but will not turn on humans as they get older unlike lions and leopards.
As I took him back to camp my guide and gun bearer took great pleasure in my compassion for the amazing gift Mother Africa had laid at my feet and allowed me to become a guardian for albeit temporary as it was. He slept with me in my cot the next night and the following day we drove to a nearby village where I was introduced to a native family that I was told had other pet Cheetahs in the past and knew exactly how to care for them. When asked what I had named the baby Cheetah I realized I hadn't given it a thought but they told me since it was I that had discovered him tradition made it my responsibility to do so. After a few moments of careful thought and remembering the Cheetah is one of the fastest land animals in the world I told them his name was Sydney. Sydney was the first police officer that ever gave me a speeding ticket. Now Sydney was in fact was the local policeman in the small town of Bandon Oregon where I was raised and although he wasn't really known for being all that fast he was very friendly just like this amazing creature.
In these two photos taken by my cameraman you can see how dark baby Cheetahs are when young to help camouflage them. I love the photo with me holding him. He seems to be looking at those awesome, large hind claws as if to say, "Hey what are those? I bet I could use those things to get some great traction!"
Some day it would be nice to visit the same village to see how Sydney has grown and even better if there was a way to know he could remember me.