Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 06/08/2011

On your marks… get set…..

Is this the fastest mammal on the planet? Nope! Okay the fastest creature? Nope! Okay, perhaps I should phrase the question better – which is the fastest land animal, with four legs, lives in Africa (though not exclusively), has a spotted coat (but not always) begins with “C” and ends with “h” and who’s binomial name is Acinonyx jubatus? Any ideas? It’s a Cheetah!

Actually as I seem to do all the work in this relationship, Dear Reader, (though I do concede that just reading this blog each day is more than hard work!), here’s a question for you: can you tell the difference between a cheetah and a leopard? Our guide (five points if you can remember his name (yes I can remember his name, I was seeing if you were paying attention during my previous blogs) – no points if you have already looked back at previous entries to find out), William, described how you can tell the difference between the two big cats whilst we were driving back through the Masai Mara from our encounter with the leopard. I can’t recall the specific details he mentioned as I was more puzzled that someone wouldn’t be able to tell the difference but I’ve subsequently overheard people having problems identifying either species.

Now, I don’t mean to be condescending with that last entry, it’s just I find it difficult to comprehend probably because I’ve liked animals, birds, reptiles etc ever since I remember so to me it’s just inherent knowledge. I would be interested in your thoughts and comments – see whether you know the difference.

Today’s image was taken within one hour of having landed on the Masai Mara; we were on the way to our camp and along the way our driver made several detours to allow us to get close to a number of species. The first view of elephants was incredibly special but when we discovered a mother Cheetah and six adolescent cubs- well, that was something else! The troublesome teen cheetahs were in high spirits and were continually taunting each other, and you can see one photo on today’s flickr entries that show the cubs at play. As it was around mid-day, the lighting was abominable, plus the family of big cats were all sheltering under the bushes, which doesn’t make for a well lit photo but still, it was great fun photographing them all. I still think my photo of Sita the Cheetah from Dartmoor Zoo is probably my best Cheetah photograph – to date… I’m going to be visiting the zoo again in 7 days and to say I’m excited is a bit of an understatement! I don’t want to tempt fate but I am hoping to take some great photos whilst I’m there.


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