After getting to know the African wild dogs and Lucky the three-legged cheetah that morning, it was time to get to know some of the reserve's other rescues. This included over 12 cheetahs, another wild dog and a leopard. They were all due their daily feeding and I was going to be taking part in this activity.
We loaded up the pick-up truck with lots of meat, jumped on the back and headed towards the enclosures. The cheetahs all had their separate habitats, some sharing with a litter-mate. The cheetahs were all eagerly waiting for us as we drove round. They paced impatiently, hissing and spitting. Each cheetah's space was huge so we had to drive to each one.
Each time we arrived at a different animal, a different volunteer got the honours of throwing the meat over the top of the fence and into the enclosure. The first volunteer actually mis-judged the throw and the meat missed the enclosure. The poor cheetah dashed forward, not realising the meat had actually missed, and unfortunately crashed into the electric fence. Giving out a pained hiss, the big cat retreated to the bushes before emerging cautiously after a few moments.
The cheetah seemed to quickly forget about the painful experience and ran forward again once the meat was thrown a second time. Fortunately, the throw was well-aimed and landed with a thud within the enclosure. The cheetah frantically grabbed the meat in its strong jaws before dashing off to eat their lunch in peace.
If looks could kill
Me, carrying the meat to throw to a hungry cheetah
After all the cheetahs and the wild dog had been fed, we moved onto the leopard called Duma. Unlike the eager cheetahs, Duma was no where in sight when we arrived. The guides called her name a few times. Still, she did not show. We threw the meat over into her habitat, but still there was no sign of Duma.
We were told a story about Duma, about how a potential investor was looking around the reserve. He stood a little too close to Duma's enclosure and through the fencing she was able to claw his arm. He needed multiple stitches to fix the terrible wound. Interestingly, he is now the reserve's biggest investor.
Eventually, Duma appeared. She was in no rush as she casually strolled out of the thickets towards the meat. She bent down and before she picked up her catch, she gave us all a defiant stare and snarled. Then, she picked up the hunk of meat and began to casually drag it away. It was a great sighting, reminiscent of all those nature documentaries I had seen where leopards haul their kills, sometimes up to 3 times their own weight.
I had seen wild dogs, cheetahs and leopards in one day. It was one of the best experiences I have had.