My wife and I had our first African wildlife experience in Namibia in 2005. At that time, we were inexperienced and did not know the potential risks. Despite this, we had a great time and shared some hilarious moments. However, we did encounter some less-than-perfect experiences.

The experience came as a complete surprise as we drove through the country. Never had we imagined it would be such a thrilling adventure, with wild animals like elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, kudus, buffaloes, and many others roaming freely around us. We encountered them everywhere, often at very close distances. We even had to wait for animals to clear our path several times. It was both exciting and scary at the same time.

I learned early that African wildlife differs from what Walt Disney films depict. Life is the only thing that truly matters in the wild and must be continuously defended. As humans, we have prioritised scientific and technological advancements over the defence of life. For centuries, we have focused on health and wealth, but there are no doctors, lawyers, or currency in the wild. The law of the jungle is simple: stronger animals kill weaker animals, including newborns, babies, and adults, to eat them. The reality is harsh and merciless.

I have witnessed how maternal instinct works in animals on many occasions. Seeing how an elephant mother creates a safe area around her calf when lions try to attack it is incredible. This behaviour is not limited to elephants alone, as most animals are weaker than their predators. However, animal mothers are always ready to risk their lives to protect their young ones, even if they are predators themselves.

I have often encountered the perplexing fact that cheetahs give birth to an average of four to five cubs. Still, mainly only one of them survives and grows up to adulthood. As a fierce predator and an efficient hunter, I cannot comprehend why their survival rate is so low. Indeed, despite my numerous safari experiences, I never once saw cheetahs with their cubs.

I have often encountered the perplexing fact that cheetahs give birth to an average of four to five cubs. Still, mainly only one of them survives and grows up to adulthood.

During our last trip to Kenya in late 2023, we visited the Naboisho Conservancy in Mara, accompanied by our guide Saruni Kaelo. There, we had the privilege of encountering a magnificent cheetah named Namunyak and her five adorable cubs. Our first encounter with them took place in the bush, where we observed what seemed to be a happy and contented cheetah family.

The cubs were playing energetically, climbing bushes, and play-fighting with each other while biting their mother’s ears. They displayed different behaviours – one was often seen playing alone. In contrast, others were much closer to their mother, and one was persistently stuck to her. At a particular moment, the mother lay on the ground, and all the cubs surrounded her to suckle.

The late afternoon scene was incredibly peaceful until Namunyak abruptly stood up and stared at something invisible in the bushes. She raised her hackles, indicating imminent danger in front of her. Then she slowly dragged herself forward a few metres before suddenly running off like a rocket, leaving behind a cloud of dust.

The late afternoon scene was incredibly peaceful until Namunyak abruptly stood up and stared at something invisible in the bushes.

Despite the unexpected incident and the dust, I captured some pictures of Namunyak chasing a hyena that had approached too close to her cubs. After a few minutes, she returned and resumed nursing her cubs as if nothing had occurred. However, the hyena had not left the area, and a second one lurked nearby.

couldn't help but wonder how long Namunyak, the mother cheetah, would be able to keep all her cubs alive. The experience was both inspiring and worrying at the same time.

As I gazed at the stunning scenery, it dawned on me just how challenging it is for a single mother cheetah to ensure the survival of all her cubs. She must temporarily leave her cubs vulnerable to fight or chase away predators, making it easy for another predator to attack and kill them. Similarly, when the mother goes hunting for food, she risks leaving her cubs unguarded.

The cubs soon start eating meat and milk, and it becomes a challenge to provide for them all. I couldn’t help but wonder how long Namunyak, the mother cheetah, would be able to keep all her cubs alive. The experience was both inspiring and worrying at the same time.

The cubs soon start eating meat and milk, and it becomes a challenge to provide for them all.

A few days after our encounter, we observed Namunyak and her cubs feasting on a freshly hunted animal, and they all appeared content. A lion killed one of the five cubs a few weeks later. After another week, we learned that the remaining four cubs had gone missing, possibly due to a confrontation with a lion pride. Namunyak was frantically searching for them. Fortunately, four rangers located the cubs the following day and reunited them with their mother.

After a few weeks, two more cubs were lost, presumably killed by lions. Namunyak is now raising her two remaining cubs, who still need much time to grow and become independent.

After a few weeks, two more cubs were lost, presumably killed by lions. Namunyak is now raising her two remaining cubs, who still need much time to grow and become independent. Unfortunately, the situation is complex, and the cubs’ tragic fate is imminent. Let’s hope for the best!