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Order carnivores (Carnivora), Suborder land based carnivores (Fissipedia),







Family cats (Felidae), Subfamily true cats (Felinae)

Leopards (Panthera pardus) are for sure one of the high lights of a safari. At rainy days the chances are even higher since they avoid the wet grass and climb on trees, where they are easier to be seen. Thanks to their opportunistic and clandestine life style they are still spread over Africa even they are hunted in all their habitats either for their skin or because they kill domestic animals.

The leopard on the right missed 3 wildebeest just in front of our car. Then he walked off slowly marking before he disappeared in the thicket of the Talek river in the Masai Mara.




Leopards live solitary except during mating season and mother with cubs.

About every 2 years and after a gestation period of 90 to 100 days a female gives birth to 1 - 3 blind cubs. During the first 6 weeks they hide in their burrow. Thereafter they come out to learn all from their mother to have a secure future.

Photo Christian Kemmler




A large leopard tom cat crossed our way. His territory overlaps the smaller ones of 3 – 4 females. Except during a female’s heat they avoid each other. Leopards mark their territory by spraying urine and scratching on trees which also leaves a scent mark from the glands on their paws.

Leopards are spread over many parts of Africa. They are quite tolerant to the habitat. Mostly you find them very big trees grow. To ensure lions, hyenas and honey badgers can not take their prey they pull it under enormous effort up on trees where they can eat undisturbed.

Widespread in Africa up to India.




Family cats (Felidae), subfamily cheetahs (Acinonychinae)

Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) for me are the epitome of grace, elegance, speed and melancholy.   

Most of the time you find them resting under a shady tree only to get up to move out of the wandering sun edging out the shade. 

But still many times we had the opportunity to observe a caring mother, playful cubs, a stalking cheetah or them feasting on their prey. 

The number of cheetahs is declining. Different factors such as reducing habitats as well as increasing human settling and activities play a role. By separating individuals in split up areas the gene pool looses its variation and weakens the population.  

Still we have the chance to meet these beautiful cats in the wild and hope that with our contribution many more generations will also enjoy them.







The main prey of cheetahs are Thomson Gazelles. But they do not despite hares as well. For a single cheetah it provides a meal. Several grown up cheetahs together can bring down Impalas, wildebeests or small zebras.

Cheetahs are the only cats that can not retract their claws. These serve as spikes when they follow a prey with 100 km/hour in a zigzag.

Being sprinters they need open areas and that is where they can be found from Africa up to India.

Below a mother with 5 cubs eating a Thomson gazelle. The mother stays alert and keeps on surveying the area for danger from lions or hyenas. Cheetahs are the weakest among the big carnivores.




3 to 8 young are born blind and helpless. The typical silver mane on the back disappears when they are 10 weeks old. Claws can be retracted up to week 15. With 6 weeks they are weaned but remain with the mother at least for 18 month. She only leaves them when she is assured they know how to hunt and kill on their own. That is important so they have good chances to survive and reproduce themselves.




Sometimes you meet a cheetah mother with 6 small cubs. But to see one that managed to bring up all almost to adulthood is rare.

Above: 4 cheetahs finishing the meat on an wildebeest kill. Cheetahs share food without fighting. Photo Richard Kiprotich, Masai Mara








Males build coalitions after leaving the mother being 17 to 23 months old. They do not need to be related. Mostly the coalition consists of 3 – 4 males patrolling an area and mating with the females on heat. One of them is the leader. He takes the initiative for hunting and mostly gets the right to mate.

These 3 males brothers in Lewa Conservancy are brothers born around 1999. After eating a Thomson gazelle they lick the blood off each other. This ceremony also strengthens the bond between them. Unfortunately the leader got mauled by lions in March 2011. Despite veterinary care he didn’t make it and the other 2 later on passed away too. Now younger males occupy the territory.




Cheetahs are the weakest among the big hunters. A spotted hyena was approaching a female cheetah. Not in a straight line, but in zigzag pretending it didn’t see the cheetah. Once close enough the cheetah started threatening and as to be seen in the pictures chased the hyena away. Thereafter the hyena followed the spotted cat hoping she is going to hunt and there will be something to steal.







 Tribe small cats (Felini)

Serval cats (Felis serval) are small cats with a shoulder height of 60 cm and a short tail. Their large ears enable them to hear rodents in the tall grass and to jump on them with an amazing precision. Birds are caught with a high jump into the air. Unfortunately they are quite shy.

Their habitats are savannah, swamps and gallery forest in Africa.




Superfamily mongooses, civets, genets, hyena relatives (Herpestoidea), family hyenas (Hyanidae)

The various calls of the Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) are frequently heard many areas in Africa. They live in clans in a complicated social structure dominated by the larger females raising their offspring together in community burrows.  
Despite their reputation to be ugly scavengers they are successful hunters. If they do not get the chance to take the kill of a lion, leopard or cheetah they hunt down their own. United they kill game of the size of zebras and wildebeests. The muscular neck and the long and strong teeth enable them to crack buffalo bones to get to the nutritious bone marrow.

Hyenas love resting in mud or water or even in big drainage pipes where they find shade.



Tuepfelhyaene paarend




Many studies have revealed how complex and interesting their social live in fact is. 

The usually 2 young are born black and do already have canines. Are the fresh born of the same sex the stronger one very often kills the weaker one to eliminate rank competition already in the burrow. For a long time they are woollier than the adults. Different females raise their young in a community burrow so you can meet young at different age.

We counted 50 individuals in this spotted hyena clan which killed a foaling zebra. Hyenas are tolerant to different habitats as long there are antelopes and zebras. The higher the density of game the larger the clans. The largest clans can be seen in Ngorongoro area. Widespread in Africa.




To get to see a striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) is real luck. They live in areas where no or just few larger spotted hyenas occur. Preferring bushy areas they eat almost everything they come across from carrion, insects, fruits and even kill new born antelopes. They are mainly nocturnal but still we found this one early in a morning. Several females can raise their cubs in the same burrow.

In most African countries they are endangered. Hunted down for various reasons and habitat destruction are responsible for their slow disappearance.