Speed vs Power as Cheetah encounters Lions

As a wildlife photographer I’m mostly out early in the mornings and late afternoons, the hours when the light at its best and animal activity at its peak.

Recently, I stayed out a little longer than usual and was rewarded with some incredible action in the heat of the day.

While making my way back to camp after a morning of photography, I bumped into a cheetah and her three cubs walking in the direction of the lions I had just left.

I decided to follow them for a while and to my surprise they just kept walking in that direction. Anticipating interaction between them, and with a sense of foreboding, I quickly returned to the lions and positioned myself a distance away with a good view to capture any action that may follow.

It was not long before the cheetahs arrived and, oblivious to the danger, they walked straight to within 20 meters of the slumbering lions.

The lions woke and gave chase with the cheetahs heading in two separate directions, cubs in one and mom in the opposite. I had to make a split second decision and opted to follow the adult cheetah, which turned out to be a good decision. The second lioness left the cubs and also joined the chase after the mother cheetah. 

It was interesting to observe how the cheetah would run to a certain distance and then stop and attract the attention of the lionesses until they gave chase again, thus drawing them successfully away from her cubs.

When far enough away she took cover and waited. The lions lost sight of her and gave up the chase. As soon as it was safe the cheetah returned back to her cubs. Her quick thinking and fast action certainly saved them on that occasion.

Sometimes the action does happen in the heat of the day although I was fortunate to have some cloud cover which helped diffuse the light.



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