Kenya: Masai Mara – Cheetah with Baby Cubs
This was the absolutely best animal sighting in Africa on this trip (and quite possibly in Africa in general) – a mother cheetah with four adorable baby cubs. The mother would hide the cubs in the bush and then try to go hunting, although with little success. She would call the cubs and they would respond and she would come back to them. Cheetas are usually born in a litter of 3-8, blind and covered in thick coat of grey fur called mantle which serves as protection against predators (these four cubs were very little with the mantle intact). A baby cheetah is tiny at birth, weighing just half a pound (250 grams). Cheetah cubs have very high mortality, up to 90%, with 3 out of four cubs not making it to 3 months of age. The mantle is shed gradually during the first four months a cheetah cub’s life. Mother cheetahs hide cubs in well protected dens, and are very maternal, purring and nursing, and grooming the little cubs. Cheetah cubs make soft purring sounds and soft squeaking bird-like calls to their mother, literally like a bird chirping. We heard the babies call on their mom and she came running back. We spend over 3 hours watching this, absolute surreal!