Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 09/12/2011

Somebody Stop Me!

Cheetah, originally uploaded by

Things are never what they seem, and that’s never more true than with things in the media. There has been a clip circulating around the Internet (just the one) of a person walking amongst cheetahs and then befriending one like some real life Crocodile Dundee. People take the video at face value and are amazed by the powers of the person to tame these wild big cats, but of course they’re not exactly wild (they were livid… oh hang on I’ve used that joke already 😉 ). As with anything, a bit of knowledge (and trust me, Dear Reader, that’s more than I have!) and you can easily see the falsehood of this clip. There are possibly a dozen of these magnificent creatures congregated in a relatively small area.. this large number of these animals together isn’t naturally occurring one. Whilst a mother cheetah, who can have as many as 5 cubs, will tolerate her offspring when they are nearly full grown she will soon see them off when they reach a certain age as they then become competition for food, so a dozen in the same proximity just wouldn’t occur, especially without lots of fighting etc.

Another give away is the way the creatures react to the person. These animals stand their ground and hiss a lot, but they don’t run away when the person doesn’t give ground either. These cats are much more fragile than other big cats such as Lions, and will avoid conflict at all cost, as any injury will mean they can’t hunt.. well,you can work out the rest. Our Masai guide, whilst in safari in Kenya, earlier in the year corroborated this fact when asked what the cheetah we were watching would do if we got out of our vehicle.

Of course there are a number of fairly well known Cheetah sanctuaries in Africa, and many will allow you to enter the cat’s enclosure for a more personal experience (try that with a tiger and it will certainly be a personal experience.. up close and dismembered) for a fee. This has started me thinking about next year’s trip as well as a possible New Year’s Resolution (I say that tentatively, got to run the idea past the wife first (see my previous post about New Year’s Resolutions and my wife’s reaction)). I could combine the trip to Africa with a visit to one of these sanctuaries, allowing me to gather information and photographs to write a book on these graceful creatures. I could take this idea one step further and put together a book on Big Cats in general, but I think the research I would need to undertake to write the the text one one species could be a challenge enough.. until I’m more conversant with the whole book production process of course…. and then there’ll be no stopping me (well, lack of sales might be a factor!).

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