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There she goes - Ndutu / TZ Fall 2020


ice

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Sunday August 30th - Afternoon Drive

 

  • headed out back to Makao Plains
  • both the cheetah and the lioness were exactly at the same spots we had left them, not doing anything, just being lazy cats
  • spotted an AWC on our way home

 

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The concession   Those who've been there know how busy the concession can be, especially when the migration comes to town (Ndutu is where the wildebeest usually give birth in the millions).

Since it was clear that the lions were still in a hunting mood, we carefully (careful as to not disturb them or alarm their possible food sources) followed them back to the western corner of the Small

Subsequent to the initial kill, I found quite a few things interesting (as in "unusual"): I was expecting the Willow, the second lioness, to rush to the kill and start eating right way, instead

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mtanenbaum

Thanks for posting! Can you post a link to your YouTube video of the cheetah that you mentioned? I'd love to take a look at it!

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2 minutes ago, mtanenbaum said:

Thanks for posting! Can you post a link to your YouTube video of the cheetah that you mentioned? I'd love to take a look at it!

 

You mean the one I filmed two years ago? Sure. But beware, it's bloody and brutal. 

 

 

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madaboutcheetah

@ice - Thanks for the video.  What about the stalk, chase and take down - do you have a youtube clip of that? 

 

Would love to see more video links from your recent trip!! 

 

 

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Just now, madaboutcheetah said:

@ice - Thanks for the video.  What about the stalk, chase and take down - do you have a youtube clip of that? 

 

Would love to see more video links from your recent trip!! 

 

 

 

Not of that particular kill, no; she had taken us by surprise 

 

As for the recent trip: I am currently finishing my own manuscript ( +/- 40 pages). I will then start to record the narration and edit the film (+/- 2 h long). It will thus take me a few weeks until I am ready to upload stuff from this 2020 safari. That being said, you could find half a dozen more cheetah videos on my channel, though usually without the stalking and the chases.

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madaboutcheetah

Ok - please link videos to this report later on when you've done the editing ....... Thank You!!

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3 minutes ago, madaboutcheetah said:

Ok - please link videos to this report later on when you've done the editing ....... Thank You!!

 

was planning to do just that

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Speaking about which:

 

I don't know what protocol other guides follow when a cheetah hunt seems likely. Hamisi will usually position his Landrover quite a distance away (a few hundred meters), not wanting to warn the prey nor distract the hunter. 

 

While taking (good) photos from such a distance, what with all the possibilities and support systems of today's cameras, may be possible, filming is a whole different story. During my previous trips to Ndutu I've spent quite some time with professional camera crews and let me tell you, there is a reason why their cameras easily cost 200.000 € and more. Also, to gather material for a 45 min oder 60 min documentary a team stays in the area for 3 months and out in the field 12 h each day. One producer estimated that for 60 seconds of TV material they need 60 hours in the bush. 

 

Now, my cameras cost around 500 € and their focal distance is in the region of 600 mm. Not too bad, but nowhere near what professionals use. My monitor is as tiny as any monitor on a photo camera. 

 

To sum it all up: with my equipment it is virtually impossible to film a cheetah hunt from start to finish, not the least because the animals tend to abruptly change directions when speeding with 100 km/h. Trust me, I had to learn that the hard way. I remember very well my first cheetah kill in 2014. When the hunt finally started, I was so desperate to get my gear ready, I missed it entirely. Since then, I usually try to follow hunts with my eyes (difficult enough) and leave the cameras in standby.

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Monday August 31st - Morning Drive

 

  • began at Makao Plains
  • right from our first lookout stop Hamisi spotted two groups of cheetah: 3 adult males, one slightly younger than the other two, and a mother with a subadult
  • we decided to check out the coalition first, from a distance they looked restless and hungry, while the female was obviously trying to sneak around the males
  • we spent appr. 2 h with the 3, during which they tried to hunt gazelles twice, without success

During our time with the cheetah we also saw hyenas running with full speed across the Plains. What to do? Stay with the cats or follow the hyenas? Tough decision but in the end we held our position. Later we found out that the hyenas had just killed a baby eland. 

 

 

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With the coalition seemingly being bad hunters, we went back to the mother and the subadult. On our way we spotted another (lone) subadult cheetah. I thought this must be the one we had seen earlier that day, now calling for its mother whom he might have lost when she went hunting. However, Hamisi was sure it was different a different cub. Quite confusing, but that was only the start of it. 

 

For the next few hours we circulated between the coalition of 3, the lone subadult and the mum with the other subadult. In the end mum started making contact calls, too, so Hamisi must have been right: Mum had at least two subadult cubs.

 

One our way back to the lodge we found

  • another single lioness, most likely also looking for the rest of her pride (the lioness was later identified as being a member of the Big Marsh Cousins Pride)
  • another cheetah coalition, consisting of 2 males
  • two male lions, later identified as Larmasi and Loseyay

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Edited by ice
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Love the video you made of the cheetah with the kill feeding so close to your vehicle. 
Good to see it has been so successful with Youtube viewings.

 

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madaboutcheetah

@ice- are there a lot of resident gazelle in the dry months ? 
 

 

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3 minutes ago, madaboutcheetah said:

@ice- are there a lot of resident gazelle in the dry months ? 

 

depends on what you consider "a lot" - on a typical day in the Plains we would usually see two or three dozen groups, anywhere from 2-3 gazelles up to probably 50 - 60 in one herd (usually a mix of Thommies and Grants)...certainly not a lot when compared to the migration season, but just as certainly more than wildebeest and zebras

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Monday August 31st - Afternoon Drive

 

After all the animals we had seen during our morning drive

  • a coalition of 3 adult male cheetah
  • a female cheetah with a subadult male cub
  • a lonely subadult male cheetah cub
  • another coalition of 2 adult male cheetah
  • a coalition of 2 adult male lions

I was wondering which ones we should concentrate on during our (naturally much shorter) afternoon drive. However, I need not have worried: except the male lions (which we hardly ever stopped for on our way back to the Plains), all the other cats were gone - that's nature for you. It took us almost two hours to spot cheetah again - 3 cats.

  • theory #1: the coalition of 3 adults -> when we got closer we noticed, though than of one the cats was a female
  • theory #2: mum had reunited with her 2 subadults -> not possible, this female was noticeably smaller than an adult female

And while we were still discussing possible explanations, the confusion was increased when all of a sudden a third male appeared from behind a bush (we had kept our distance because these cats were obviously stalking gazelles). Since Hamisi was sure that we had seen 2 of the 3 males in the morning, our final theory #3 was: 3 brothers and 1 sister, who had just been abandoned by their mother (literally around lunch time), so our cheetah counter of the day had just risen 10! I'm too lazy to check my notes from 2014 and 2016, but if 10 individual cheetah over the course of one day was not a record for me, it comes damn close.

 

Now we all know how slim the survival rates of cheetah cubs are, especially in the Serengeti Eco System - according to my research on average only 5% of the cubs survive to become adults and have their own offspring. So if what we surmised was true, that mum, raising four cubs to adulthood, deserves a lot of respect. And she obviously taught them to hunt as well - minutes after we arrived at the scene, they had made their (first ever?) kill. It was "only" a baby gazelle, but so what? 

 

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Less than 15 minutes later the first vultures showed up and in return probably attracted a hyena. Now from my own experience I would say that hyenas in East Africa are extremely wary of vehicles. We were sure it would only close in on the carcass after we had driven off a bit. Thus we let the cheetah eat what little meat there was and only then (shame on us) increased our spacing. Sure enough the hyena came running and then left with a few bones.

 

 

 

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To get back to an earlier question I believe @madaboutcheetahasked: this particular hunt and kill I did manage to film. It was a rather long chase, +/- 30 seconds. Unfortunately the grass was very high again, when the cat wrestled the gazelle finally down they both disappeared from our view. Nevertheless this kill and its feeding frenzy will certainly be among the clips I plan to my upload to my YouTube Channel sometime later this year.

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  • 1 month later...

After an unexpected (who would on Sept. 21st have guessed, let alone know that South Africa would open its borders again two weeks later), after my unexpected holiday-induced absence I guess it's time to wrap this trip report up.

 

Tuesday September 1st - Morning Drive

 

Back in the Macao Plains we spotted four cheetah - that would have to be the four siblings who made their first kill 12 h ago, right? However, minutes later a fifth cheetah appeared - had mum returned after all? No, because all cats were males - raising our cheetah counter for this safari up to 18.

 

Btw, I have once seen a coalition of four male cheetah in the Kgalagadi, but never a coalition of five! Incredibly rare! 

 

 

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Anyway, the five were clearly hungry, checking and walking, checking and walking. However, as much as bigger numbers may increase your chances of bringing down bigger prey (not that there is any big prey in the Plains during the dry  season, except maybe the odd eland), bigger numbers also increase the likelihood that one of those predators is spotted by the very prey they hope to take down, and that's exactly what happened to these guys. At least half a dozen times they were zooming in on Thommies or Grants and each and every time they were seen long before they had a chance to stalk, let alone hunt.

 

And yet, they seemed determined to overcome their fate - we must have followed them for two or or three hours and in the end, their persistence was rewarded: within 17 minutes they made two kills. First one of the five stumbled (out of pure luck, no stalking or chasing was necessary) upon on unlucky scrub hare and then (finally) a true hunt: they brought down a baby gazelle.

 

 

 

 

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Scrub Hare Kill - and he was not gonna share with others 

 

 

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Baby Gazelle Kill - one is already leaving to stand watch

 

 

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resting after their (albeit small) meals

 

 

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In 2016 I had seen the same cheetah family make two kills within a few minutes, but two kills within 17 minutes, that was another record for me.

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great to be back in this TR. Lucky you to see that many cheetahs.

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58 minutes ago, Biko said:

great to be back in this TR. Lucky you to see that many cheetahs.

 

Yeah, at least for the dry season. In dry season 2018 we spotted "only" 10 individuals

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Well, it was only the fifth day of my safari and we had already seen one lion kill, three cheetah kills and 18 individual cheetah, among them a coalition of 5 males.  However, as exciting and successful this first half of my trip was, as dull started the second part: for days to come we'd only spot the odd cheetah here or a single lion there, every once in a while spiced up through hunting attempts, but certainly nothing special when compared to the start of the safari.

 

Thursday evening was the only time I had to share the lodge with other guests, four French who were passing through on their way to Serengeti.

 

Friday September 4th saw us back in the Small Marsh. There we came across Laura, Willow and their cubs again, the very same lions who had made the wildebeest kill six days prior. And it seemed as if we had arrived at the right time, Laura was stalking warthogs again - but no luck this time. The pigs somehow sensed the presence of the predators (they certainly didn't see them) and ran off.

 

Later that morning we met up with a young Masai called Roimen. Roimen works for an organisation called Kope Lion, an organisation that tries to enable a lasting and peaceful co-existence between local Masai farmers and lions in northern Tanzania.

 

https://kopelion.org

 

With Roimen's database we were finally able to identify the lions Hamisi and I had filmed and photographed so far. Roimen had left his base at the Crater to check up on two other lions prides, the Twin Hills Pride and the Masek Pride. The leaders of these prides, Nadine and Nosikitok, are collared and Roimen was kind enough to share the latest GPS coordinates with us. The Twin Hills Pride resides in an area that during the dry season is allotted to the Masai as grazing grounds, so the lions are very wary and usually hide in thick bush, impenetrable for safari cars. Nosikitok, however was easy to find.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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