A photographer has captured a cheetah mother’s plucky defense of her cubs in Masai Mara, Kenya, which borders the Serengeti.
Paul Goldstein was guiding last month when he spotted the stand-off when a leopard took an interest in the family.
The cheetah, known as Amani translating to Peace, faced the threat head-on, and dramatically tried to wear the large female leopard out before it could attack.
Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animals, capable of top speeds of 71 miles per hour, and while running they can cover four strides in a second with each stride measuring up to 24ft.
Wimbledon-based Paul said: ‘Recently, in the heart of Kenya’s Mara North Conservancy, I saw something I can still scarcely believe.’
Paul was guiding for Exodus Travels when he snapped the stand-off.
Mr Goldstein said: ‘Amani (Peace) is a cheetah I am very familiar with having spent many game drives with her in this most beautiful part of East Africa.
‘She is a good mother and an excellent hunter, but this particular morning, only a few minutes from camp, something was clearly concerning her.
‘A quick check with the binoculars from my guide and friend Joseph Sengeny from Kicheche Mara Camp confirmed a large female leopard very interested in her and more importantly, her two sub adult cubs.’
‘Leopards and cheetahs, whilst not quite the mortal enemies of lions and hyenas, are still never seen together, so this was a remarkable display of territorial parenting skills by the lighter, but faster cheetah.
‘This mother lost her infant brood of five cubs last year to hyenas and she was in no mood to see her two go the same way to this powerful adversary.
‘Goaded by the cheetah’s advances, the leopard descended from its arboreal stronghold and battle lines were drawn.
‘The cheetah’s ploy was clear – get close enough to goad the opponent, but with her superior acceleration, stay just out of the way of those potentially fatal claws.
‘After around five rounds the leopard moved off and the cheetah re-united with her young charges.’
‘Joseph said, “I have never seen anything like this”, and as shell-shocked as I was, fortunately it being in a precious Conservancy it was not marred by too many vehicles.
‘Joseph has about 10,000 game drives to his name so when he says something like this it carries weight.
‘Life is incredibly tough for cheetahs for so many different reasons, from land encroachment to hyenas, jackals and lions, but rarely if at all leopards, so to witness an extended bout like this was utterly extraordinary and with a satisfying outcome. ‘