||The Hunt is On
predators hunt in the same way. In particular, two Etoshan predators -- the cheetah and
the jackal -- provide an interesting comparision in attacking tactics.
A cheetah is physically designed for speed, and that speed is meant to be put to use in
hot pursuit of prey. Just how is an animal smaller than a human able to reach speeds of up to
55 miles per hour with sports car quickness? When a cheetah takes its first strides, it
leaves the ground twice -- once with its legs completely extended, then with its legs
tightly folded beneath its body. It can do this because of the amazing flexibility of its
backbone, which indirectly permits much wider movement of the cheetah's legs than the
physiques of other great cats allow. These jumps let the cheetah cover long stretches of
ground in no time at all. In addition, the cheetah has
||another physical attribute that helps it chase
prey: its tail. Acting like a rudder, a cheetah's tail aids the animal when it needs to
switch direction abruptly at high speed. The explosive power possessed by the cheetah does
not last long, however. If it is unable to make a kill quickly, it soon tires, and gives
up the chase.
Jackals usually hunt alone, though they will sometimes congregate in groups to bring down
big game. When they do this, the jackals approach the animal herd -- say, of springbok --
slowly. As they near the herd, the jackals suddenly break into a run, each animal in
pursuit of its own prey. If one of the jackals closes in on a springbok, the other
jackals abandon their animals and focus instead on the single prey. The pursuing jackal gets
a hold on the springbok, slowing it until the other jackals can arrive and finish the job.