This extraordinary series of photographs, taken in the Masai Mara game
reserve in Kenya by top environmental photographer Andy Rouse, show a
female cheetah demonstrating to her young the first rules of survival
in the wild – how to hunt and kill. But there is more to the story…

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The mother inches towards her prey

The female cheetah turns on a blinding burst of speed to overtake the nimble but defenceless Thomson’s gazelle.

Of course, it helps when you’re the world’s fastest land animal and can run at speeds of up to 70mph.

But technique still comes in handy and, as this baby Thomson’s
gazelle finds out, it can be the difference between life and death.

First, the mother cheetah spots her prey grazing without a
care in the world. Next, she’s slinking slowly forward, belly hanging
low, padded feet silent until she’s close enough.

Then she pounces, grabs the panting creature in her teeth, and
bounds back with it to her delighted offspring, dropping it, unharmed
but terrified, at their feet.

Green to the art of killing, they think they’ve a brand-new
friend and, pleased as punch, begin playing with it – nuzzling, and
pawing and biting it as it staggers to its wobbly feet and tries to
flee, again and again.

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The gazelle is easily caught and – amazingly – is left unharmed

She drops the bewildered gazelle at the feet of her cubs who think they have a playmate

Each time it escapes, the mother encourages her cubs to chase it
and, each time they fail, she sprints off herself to retrieve it –
without killing it – and starts the process again.

"It is the only way cheetah cubs can learn to hunt," explains Mr Rouse, who trailed the cheetah all day for these pictures.

"She picked up the gazelle and put it down by the cubs. The
gazelle kept running away, but eventually it was exhausted. She chased
it until it couldn’t run any more."

For the cubs, this is the most important lesson they will learn
from their mother. Their survival depends on being able to hunt for
food, and avoid predators, such as eagles.

Because, at 18 months, their mother will leave them to fend
for themselves. Back in the burnt grass of the Masai Mara, the hunting
lesson is drawing to a close.

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The delighted cubs nuzzle, paw and nibble at the frightened animal

The gazelle lies exhausted by the boisterous cubs who have been using it for hunting practice

After more than 20 minutes of torture for the gazelle, the cubs are
getting the hang of it, their mother is satisfied and the gazelle,
half-dead and breath coming in huge gasping rasps, makes one last bid
for freedom.

For more amazing photos, see

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Although mauled half to death, the gazelle seizes its chance … to make a bid for freedom

Via the Daily Mail