Of all the predators, cats manage to fascinate us the most. Their smooth movements, their elegance and strength know how to convince. Often, however, it is repressed that these animals have a “dark” and very natural side as hunters. After a successful foray and the first tidbit in the stomach, they look less cuddly and likable.
When a cheetah tears a young wildebeest while it is still alive, two other cheetahs already started the meal. Their faces were smeared with blood. At that moment, one of us has an emotional problem and refuses to take pictures. When the second wildebeest is dead, everything is more relaxed. In the end it must be a habituation process?
Knowing something and seeing something are two very different things. Fortunately, there are more meetings of peaceful nature.
When the nocturnal roar of a lion penetrates our ear, the pitch demands respect from us. Even more, if you’re busy with the early morning cat’s lick outside the jeep and a lion practically sits on your lap. Then the saying “He just wants to play” helps.
Unforgettable are also those moments when we sit in the jeep, feeling the morning cold in our bones and longingly waiting for the first warm sunbeams. A few meters away lay some cats, their eyes closed and their faces also delightfully stretched towards the sun. They too, are obviously cold. Such moments hold something incredibly peaceful and relaxing. We do not want to miss them.
The absolute coolest robbers of the savannah are hyenas for us. Seldom have animals responded so uninterested to our approach. Even if they are located in the warm sand on the runway and it is clear: one has to give way. Calling or pounding doors does not help, only aggressive honking. Even our encounters around the campfire went always very relaxed, also for us.
We are always amazed by the pragmatism of the lionesses. It often happens that two sisters are bearing at the same time. This is extremely handy for them. While one of the mothers goes hunting, the other one is taking care of their own babies and her sister’s. If the little ones are hungry, they are even suckled by their aunt. Nephews and nieces are treated as lovingly as their own offspring. The turmoil at the “dairy bar” is anything but relaxed for the ones staying at home. They push, shove, and kick. The little rascals are never alone, because during hunting and nursery the two lionesses always alternate. For the little ones a high security level. Hyenas and other hunters have no chance.
There are encounters of which man has dreamed for years. For us it is the wild dogs. They exist only in very few areas of Africa and even in these regions an encounter is an absolute stroke of luck. We know people who have been looking for 20 years. We only have to wait eight years for them. We have the incredible fortune to encounter a large pack of 17 animals. The rare four-legged friends are strolling for three hours next to our jeep. Abundant opportunity to observe their social behavior. We enjoy every minute with these animals. On one hand, they have a high social competency; on the other hand, they are always trying to get to each others throats or bite into the soft tissue.
But in the end, they all lie peacefully together in the evening light, squinting into the sun. This means for us it is time to retreat. We are still in a trance and can hardly believe it: three hours with wild dogs. And no one disturbed us.
There are encounters, where we are swept off our feet because we did not expect them. When we get to know two cubs on a farm, two weeks old and deserted by their mother, we are hypnotized. Pure emotions.
One year later we see each other again. The fascination is unabated and the joy of reunion huge. But now the playing with the teenagers has painful consequences, because cheetahs cannot retract their claws. And their tongue, which had baby quality a year ago, is now as coarse as sandpaper. Already after one minute of licking the upper layer of skin is missing and blood is visible. We accept it with a laugh since one does not play with cheetahs every day.