Chasing Big Cats

Photo Essay

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PredatorPredatorHunting buffalo is dangerous work and requires the help of all the lioness. Working as a team, the oldest female took the lead. The other lionesses followed and with their combined weight, brought down the largest of their prey.
Tokitok LionessesTokitok LionessesIn the Ngorongoro Crater the filmmakers captured the last days of the Tokitok, a pride of lions that once dominated the region. For three generations the Tokitok females had handed the territory down from mother to daughter. Now, the success of the pride, rests on the shoulders of just three lionesses. These three, more than ever, must now work together to bring down large prey.
Caracal of the NightCaracal of the NightThe caracal is an opportunistic feeder. A skillful and agile hunter, the caracal feeds on smaller prey such as rodents and reptiles but is also capable of taking on animals larger than itself. Although largely a nocturnal hunter, the carcacal is also known to prey on birds during the day. Here, a caracal, suffocates its prey, a springhare.
Caracal KittensCaracal KittensThe caracal is the largest of the small cats, and is known for its pointy ears topped with black tufts of fur. Caracals breed year round and have litters that include up to six kittens. Here, filmmakers Owen Newman and Amanda Barrett capture a family of three kittens. It won't be long until the mother has to hunt for her family.
Serval SnatchServal SnatchServals eat a large variety of prey including rodents, hares, snakes, lizards, frogs, insects, and even birds! Servals can leap 10 feet straight into the air, and grab or strike a bird in flight. In this photo the prey under attack is an Abdim stork.
Leaping Cat!Leaping Cat!The serval is smaller than the other cats featured in the film and weighs only 30 to 40 pounds. But the serval has adapted well to hunting small prey in tall grass. In order to locate its prey, the serval uses its distinctive large ears and acute hearing to locate its prey. The cat can pick up ultrasonic high frequencies emitted by rodents and other small animals. Its elongated neck give it the ability to see above tall grasses; while its long and slender legs allows it to leap into the air to pounce on its prey.
UndetectedUndetectedUsing infrared-light, filmmakers Owen Newman and Amanda Barrett captured this leopard sneaking up to on its prey. The leopard was stalking right out in the open, relying on darkness and its stealth abilities to go undetected. Once a leopard has made a killing, it will drag the carcasses -- which is often bigger than the cat itself -- up trees to avoid losing it to other predators or scavengers.
A CatnapA CatnapAs nocturnal hunters, leopards spend the afternoon recovering from their night-time activities by napping in the trees. Graceful and stealthy, these cats are very accomplished stalkers. Leopards keep a low profile, creeping through vegetation until they are close enough to attack. A leopard's diet is surprisingly varied. It preys on wildebeest, gazelles, impalas, reed-bucks, and rodents. Leopards are good, agile climbers and so can also easily prey on monkeys and baboons.
Hot PursuitHot PursuitCheetahs may be the fastest land animals, but these cats' top speed of 60 miles per hour can only be maintained for 200 to 300 yards. The cheetah must then rely on cover to get as close to its target as possible. The gazelle, cheetahs' main prey, is also incredibly fast and has sharp, pointed hooves that help it change direction quickly enabling it to outmaneuver cheetahs. If a gazelle gets away, cheetahs usually wait until the next day to try again. But if the cheetah is successful, it's still in danger of losing its kill since, after the chase, the cat is sometimes too exhausted to defend his or her meal.
On the RunOn the RunThe cheetah, the fastest land animal, is built for speed. With its small head and streamlined body, the cheetah is lighter than most cats. It is the only cat to have non-retractable claws, which, along with its special paw pads, provide the animal with traction while running. Cheetahs use their long legs and tails for balance and steering. The cheetah's large nostrils and lungs allow the cat to take in air very quickly.