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In Kenya, the cats all have names. It is a sign of respect and perhaps a reflection of their relative rarity when compared to other species. Elephants have names as well. They too are highly respected.
This cheetah is Amani, a mother to three cubs we became acquainted with while visiting the Lion Camp. Here we see her in the late afternoon of our second day at camp. Her cubs are out of sight in this picture but near. She is scanning the grasslands of the Maasai Mara plain.
We were in our vehicle when our driver saw three young cheetah playing in the grass on a hill. Mom was nowhere near but soon spotted down a hill and across a stream near a couple of safari vehicles. We made our way towards mom and waited.
Just after we arrived, mom turned toward her cubs who were at least 100 yards away and across a small stream. She then chirped a few times, not loudly but distinctly, and her cubs came running, jumping the stream and joining their mom.
The reunion was joyful but brief. Soon, the four started making their way onto the plain ever watchful for a potential kill.
As they prowled, Amani would stop and mount a high object to get a better view. Sometimes it was a dead tree. Other times it was an abandoned termite mound.
Sometimes one or more of the cubs would join her and mimic her actions. Four eyes are better than two.
Other times, the playful cubs would commandeer the high ground, leaving Amani to search from ground level. By this time, Amani and her brood had attracted a few safari vehicles, ours included, who moved with her as she moved. She did not seem concerned.
After more than a half hour of following her movements, Amani settled down on a large termite hill to rest while keeping any eye on the plain. We moved our vehicle to a spot with a clear view of the activities.
Her cubs joined her and kept watch for awhile. Our driver had done a great job positioning the vehicle to give us such a great view. Notice the mantles on the cubs backs. This extra fur stays with the cubs for a year. Speculation is that the mantle makes them harder to see in the grass.
Then the play began. As young cubs, they had been playing much of the time while Amani scoured the plains for something to chase. But they would quickly break off their play when mom moved. Now that mom had settled in, however, the play broke out in full.
Eventually, Amani moved again and we broke off to head back to the camp. We did not see her chase or kill that day but no one felt cheated. Watching Amani move and interact with her cubs was exciting enough.
More about the cubs in a later posting.
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All photos and text are copyright Clinton Richardson. The images are from the author's Safari Collection at Trekpic.com. If you like these posts, please tell your friends about the Venture Moola blog at Readjanus.com. Want to plan your own safari? If so, feel free to check out the outfitter we used at Porini.com.
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The venture moola blog comes to you from Atlanta, Georgia. Find it at readjanus.com. Copyright Clinton Richardson.
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