Weekly Photo Challenge: “Unfocused” (Cheetahs)
When I saw this week’s photo challenge, “Unfocused,” I knew exactly where to go: my cheetah photo file. My very first photos of cheetahs ((Acinonyx jubatus) were unfocused. We were travelling along a track in the Tarangire National park in Tanzania, a game preserve not far from the Serengeti, when we came across three cheetahs lounging on an old, dead termite mound. We were all thrilled beyond belief because cheetahs are not easy to spot and not every safari group sees these beautiful animals. They were pretty far away – too far away for the point-and-shoot cameras that many of my colleagues had. My camera was a Pentax superzoom X-90, which had a 26 x digital zoom lens. As you can see in the photos below, the photos were distorted because they were at the very furthest point my camera could take an image. Had this been the only instance that we saw cheetahs – it wasn’t – I would have been very disappointed. I’ve posted a few photos of cheetahs for an earlier weekly post you can view by clicking on the title here: Weekly Photo Challenge: “Ready to Run!”
When I returned home and began reviewing my 4,000 photos (for real!), this batch of photos eventually showed up. I actually liked them! The effect appeared to me to be like a watercolor, so I kept the photos. They were the only time we saw more than one cheetah together during the safari. In all other sightings, the cheetahs were alone. The cheetahs in these photos are adults, and are most likely a band of males that are brothers. Male cheetahs frequently form bands, which are called coalitions. Unrelated males will also form coalitions. Females, however, are solo animals. The only time females will be found in groups is with their own cubs.
Some interesting facts about cheetahs:
Their claws are not fully retractable as are other felines, but their claws help them to run. They cannot climb tree trunks, but there are not a lot of trees in the savannahs where they typically live, so that skill would not be frequently used anyway. They will jump up onto low boughs of Acacia trees.
They stand about 2 1/2 to 3 feet at their shoulders, and weight between 75-160 lbs, so they are not very large animals, and certainly could not stand up to an attack by a lion, their main foe, which weighs in around 600 lbs. They are attacked by lions, leopards and hyenas, so cheetahs steer clear of these animals.
Cheetahs sport black “tear streaks” starting at the inner corners of their eyes and travelling down beside their nose and to the corners of their mouth. You can see the black streaks in these photos, which serve to reduce the bright equatorial sun’s glare to help cheetahs see long distances. Long distance sight is critical to cheetah’s hunting in the wide open expanses of the plains of the Serengeti and other habitats, although cheetahs can be found in different terrains, like the cheetahs in these photos. Being sight hunters, cheetahs hunt in the mornings and later afternoons when it is cooler yet still light.
Of course, cheetahs are known for their incredible speed, running in bursts of between 60-90 miles per hour. But they cannot keep up this speed for long, only 200-300 yards, which raises their body temperature so much that rest is required. Consequently, cheetahs will stalk their prey until they are close enough to capture them quickly. Because cheetahs as so light, they don’t have the weight to drag down their prey like lions and leopards can. Cheetahs try to trip their prey, and then bite them in the neck to suffocate them. Their hunts are successful about 50% of the time, but they frequently lose their catch to other larger predators, so they eat their prey immediately.
Cheetahs are renown for their speed, the fastest land animals on earth. What amazes me, however, is how quickly they get up to speed. Take a look at these stats:
2012 Corvette ZR1: 0-60 mph 3.4 seconds. $111,600
2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet PDK: 0-60 mph 3.8 seconds. $128,385
2012 Cheetah: 0-64 mph 3 seconds. Priceless
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Some interesting interpretations of “Unfocused” from around the blog world: