PURR-FECT STROLL – SAFARI HIKERS ACCOMPANIED BY CHEETAHS
This looks like a PURR-FECT savannah stroll – with this tour group accompanied by cheetahs.
Big male cats Hunter and Floppy and female Ntombi are no strangers to hanging around humans having been rescued as cubs.
They still range and hunt from the lodge they share with their carers and guests, but they also happily take a stroll with excited tourists.
The friendly cats also enjoy the odd stroke before taking off when the people become too boring.
Julia Wimmerlin visited the Tshukudu Game Lodge in Greater Kruger, South Africa, which is run by the Sussens family.
The lodge owners rescued the three cheetahs after their mother was killed by a lioness.
However, instead of taking them to a sanctuary, they allowed them to grow up in the wild while using the lodge as a safe home.
Julia said: “There are three cheetahs, two brothers and their sister, that live on the cast territory of this lodge.
“The owners saved them when their mother was killed and they raised them, keeping in mind they should stay wild.
“Contrary to many rescued cheetahs that live in enclosures, these three live as wild as any other animals around.
“They hunt to feed themselves but they see their human parents as a safe place so they often come to the lodge when they need rest.
“When the guests leave for a bush walk in the morning it’s not uncommon to have their the two brothers or the sister walking with them.
“They allow themselves to be petted but quickly run out of patience and disappear into the bush.
“They are very attached to the lodge owners and the man ranger and they come to see him if he whistles.”
Julia went to visit the lodge with the hope of being able to walk with the cheetahs, having been around the animals before in Namibia.
Their collars are tracking devices to allow the lodge owners to check if they are ok and to protect them from poachers.
She said: “The amazing thing is that they are still wild.
“There was this double thrill of walking in the bush and on top of that wild cheetahs are your escort.
“I felt excitement, amazement and a bit of fear.
“The animals did not seem to mind me coming close with the camera so I was getting right up to them.
“That was ok in the bush but when they wanted to sleep back in the lodge and I still continued taking pictures one of them did what my cats usually do and kicked me with his paw.
“Needless to say his paw is bigger and much more powerful so I got the message.”