The Kgalagadi, surprisingly enough actually hosts a fair number of animals. Its neighbor the Namib even has elephants, but here its springbok and Gemsbok or Oryx as they are known with a smattering of eland, wildebeest, and steenbok. The latter being a small number, and of course the cats, lions, cheetahs and some leopards and African wildcats. Hunting is a big job because there is so much desert to cover and game is scarce on the ground.
So when we see this cheetah walking along the Nossob river bed evidently looking for something from her attitude, we followed. She came over the crest of a small dune and froze as her head cleared the top. Springbok!! Yes they were about 800 m away and there was absolutely no cover between her and them but she had found them.
She crouched down and took about 5 minutes to cover 3 meters and lay down in the shadow of a bush, making her body flat as possible and still keep an eye on the springbok feeding blissfully unaware down in the riverbed. We settled in for a long wait. Patience is the hunter’s virtue, just sit and watch for hours if need be and strike in a flash when the time comes. Well, the flash came long before we expected it.
An oryx came strolling along and he had not seen the cheetah either, suddenly he found himself 10 meters from the cat and with a startled leap he watched her as he walked away. An oryx outweighs a cheetah 5 or 6 times and has nothing to fear from that cat. The upshot though was that she moved her position slightly and now was able to see around the bush to her left, while before the bush obstructed her vision. Time dragged on, and frankly, I was getting ready to call it off and move. In less time than it takes to read it, her head came up, she stood up and in less than a second, she was running full tilt for my window.
The camera could take 3 shots before she covered the 80 meters to the car went around and killed a juvenile ostrich under my left window. We had not even seen the ostrich come across the plain to our left, unaware of the cheetah. Her elevated position gave her the advantage and she pressed it all the way. Dragging the bird she headed for the shade of a camelthorn tree and proceeded to eat. A jackal trotting along noticed and sat down out of immediate danger for his long wait for a meal. Life and death in the Kgalagadi is just one wrong move and a split-second burst of speed.