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The Three Brothers - A Tale of Strength and Survival

July 27, 2010

When one thinks of the king of the jungle, lions are almost always crowned with the title. Ironically, the immense power they possess often overshadows their fairly poor hunting abilities.  The story is quite similar on the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, but of a different cat species; this is the tale of three cheetahs who challenge for the throne every day.  

Quite possibly the most famous family of cheetahs in the world - and most recently featured in the "Life" Documentary narrated by the one and only, David Attenborough - the Three Brothers have ruled the Lewa grounds for over 10 years. However, these celebrity felines aren’t just pretty cats. They have gone where no other cheetahs have been known to go and have built an appetite for the most challenging of kills.  Together, they have marked their territory on Lewa and any other male cheetah attempting to move in has been killed.

Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are the world’s fastest land animals. They can reach speeds of 103 km/h in as fast as three seconds, and they have a top speed of 120 km/h.  Cheetahs are built to hunt. From their sharp claws gripping the ground with each step to the distinctive black lines across their faces that act as an antiglare mechanism, allow these muscular animals to find prey during broad daylight. The prey of choice for cheetahs is gazelles and impalas.

So what do the Three Brothers crave for dinner after a relaxing sunbath in the luscious Lewa savannah? Most recently, ostriches have been their favorite gourmet feast and thus the cause for their celebrity status upgrade.  

Cheetahs under normal circumstances would never go after an ostrich as it is too large an animal and dangerous a kill. However, the brothers have acquired the ability to surround an ostrich in an attack and thereby bring one of these massive birds down. The triple threat tactic of the brothers has been the main reason behind their rate of successful kills. On most occasions, one brother attacks the top of the bird while two get underneath. Once the animal has been brought to the ground, one brother will clamp the neck of the bird and maneuver himself around to avoid being bucked by the ostriches’ immensely strong legs. Eventually the bird will succumb to the jaws and strongholds of the cheetahs and the feast will begin.

Despite their winning hunting strategy, these brothers are well aware of that their strength remains a facet of the power of three. They are aware that one single injurious bite from a hyena could jeopardize their ability to hunt in the only way they know how, as a band of brothers. In fact, these cheetahs have hunted together for so long it is quite unlikely that any two could survive following the death of another.  For that reason, the brothers make an effort to stay safe and well.  They never take even the slightest of risks. For example, when challenged by a lone hyena for their meal, they simply give it up without a fight.

For now, the Three Brothers remain strong as they roam the Lewa grounds with full stomachs or in search for an unsuspecting ostrich when their hunger needs satisfying. Luckily, their fame has not wavered their behaviors, and they are usually not camera shy. They are one of Lewa’s most popular attractions as they are always up for hunting something challenging and luckily, they don’t have an appetite for tourists.