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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Just like mum! Cheetah cubs pictured climbing trees at Masai Mara safari camp


Keeping up with mum: The baby cheetahs try to follow their mother up the acacia tree

And she has every reason to be watchful. While the cheetah is the fastest mammal on the planet, the initial months of the average cub's existence are fraught with danger. The animal relies on its speed for survival as well as sustenance - and the first few weeks of life, when cubs lack the power that will make them lethal predators once they reach adulthood, are extremely difficult.

Around 90 per cent of cheetahs are killed during this time, their size and diminutive stature leaving them vulnerable to attack from larger African predators, including lions, hyenas and leopards.

Still covered in their baby fluff and balancing on legs that seem too long for their bodies, these young cubs look to be a long way from joining the ranks of adult cheetahs.

But that doesn't stop them wanting to be just like mum.

Spotted outside the Kicheche Camp in Kenya's Masai Mara, the six balls of fledgling fur attempt to follow their mother up an acacia tree as she looks out over the plains.

Long way up: The more timid cubs attempt to join their siblings at the top of the tree

The species is deemed to be endangered. Estimates suggest some 12,500 cheetahs are alive in the wild, spread across 25 African countries. Namibia has the densest population - the southern African state is believed to be home to around 2500 of the cats.

Still, this sibling sextet does not seem to be doing too badly, as these exclusive photos show - even if the feline art of climbing a tree seems to come easier to some than it does to others.

The view's great from up here: Once balanced in among the branches, the young cheetahs look quite at home

While one youngster makes it halfway up the trunk, finds a crook in a branch - and refuses to give up his hard-won spot - another cuts his losses and springs back to the ground.

Meanwhile, what appears to be the smallest club waits contentedly below the tree, showing no concern about trying to keep up with his adventurous siblings, preferring the view from ground level.

Leap of faith: Lower down the tree, the other cubs are struggling to cling on

Another, meanwhile, makes it all the way to the top of the tree, finding the position furthest removed from potential threat - but also risks the wrath of mum by placing himself right under her feet as she continues her lonely sentry role.

Although the cubs look ungainly here, cheetahs are among the most agile creatures on earth, able to reach speeds of up to 75 miles per hour - faster than the UK speed limit, and any other land animal.

In peak condition, they can accelerate from a standing start to 60 miles per hour in three seconds.

That's enough of that: One of the cubs bails out

They are also among the most elusive of the wild big cats - and can be particularly tricky to spot when they are protecting their young. Moreover, they are rarely seen climbing trees.

But lucky guests at the luxury tented Kicheche Camp, on the borders of the Masai Mara Reserve, were treated to this rare display earlier this month, as the cubs took advantage of their mum's rare foray into the branches to have a go at scampering up and down the acacia themselves.

Trunk call: One of the cheetah cubs finds a lofty viewpoint, and digs in

"Cheetahs seldom climb trees, leaving clambering to leopards with their sharper claws," explains Kicheche's Paul Goldstein, who took the images.

"But for youngsters of three months, acacia trees are leisure centres, and these six lost little time in frolicking up and down its trunk.

We preferred it up there, mum: The cubs return to solid ground - but seem to prefer the safety of the branches

"But the mother has a worrying time ahead of her. Bringing up a brood of cheetah cubs is one of the toughest tasks on the plains. And seldom successful."

For more information on Kicheche Mara Camp, see www.kicheche.com.

Safari Consultants (01787 888 590, www.safari-consultants.co.uk) offers seven nights at Kicheche Mara Camp from £2,560 per adult and £1,490 per child (based on two adults and one or two children aged 12 or under sharing a tent - including flights, transfers, all meals, game viewing and park fees.

source : dailymail


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