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Lions & Other Big Cats Archives

Cheetah Sniffing for Scent Markings

Cheetah on tree stump sniffing for scent markingsCaption: Cheetah on tree stump sniffs carefully for scent markings left by other cheetah, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Canon Rebel XSi 12.2MP); Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; Focal length: 105mm; Shutter speed: 1/125; Aperture: f/8; ISO: 400; Exposure compensation: +1.3

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) mark their territories by spraying urine, usually on elevated observation points such as large rocks and tree stumps.

These marking sites are regularly visited by both resident and itinerant cheetah. In this way they gather information about the local cheetah social structure.

Leopard with Blue-Gray Eyes

Young male leopard with blue-gray eyesCaption: Young male leopard with striking blue-gray eyes, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM; Shutter speed: 1/50; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 800; Subject Distance: 11.5 m

This young male leopard (Panthera pardus) is one of two siblings we saw in Mashatu Game Reserve earlier this month. Although already quite big, they’re still immature and rely on their mother for bringing home food.

I first saw them in October last year, under different circumstances. At the time, there were three cubs, two male and one female. The female was a lot smaller and clearly had been pushed aside by her bigger brothers when suckling.

She also had an injured leg and couldn’t keep up with her mother and siblings. However, we did find her feeding on the remains of an impala kill that the mother had left for her. Later I photographed her lying on a termite mound – see Leopard Cub on Termite Mound. Naturally we wondered if she would survive.

Well, she has – and is now almost as big as her brother. Unfortunately, the other male is the one that hasn’t survived, evidently killed by a lion.

Below is a picture of the young female. Note the very clear difference in eye color. Of course, the light in which photos are taken can affect how colors are reproduced but in this case, both photos were taken in shade under similar conditions. The colors have also not been manipulated.

Young female leopard, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana

The Softer Side of Lions

Lionesses dozing with heads entwined, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana Caption: Two lionesses show their softer side as they doze contentedly with heads entwined, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L; Focal length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/500; Aperture: f/8; ISO 800.
Lionesses nuzzling and rubbing heads, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana Caption: Lionesses nuzzling and rubbing heads together, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

In a previous post, Lioness, Upside Down, I wrote about two affectionate lionesses nuzzling and rubbing heads heads together, and why this occurs. These photos were taken at the same time.

The one above was taken when the lionesses, snuggled together, drifted into sleep. I like the pose, with the heads entwined, and the texture of the fur.

The Lion’s Tongue

Lion yawning
Lion's tongue
Caption: Yawning lioness (above and right) showing the long tongue with papillae or barbs on the surface.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/200; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 400.

Lions (Panthera leo) are members of the cat family (Felidae) and, like domestic cats, the surface of the tongue is covered in sharp papillae or tiny barbs that give it a rough feel.

Lions use their tongues for grooming and eating. While grooming, the rough surface helps a lion remove insects and debris from its fur as it licks itself.

The rough surface also means a lion can lick fragments of meat from bones after a kill, ensuring it gets maximum return for its effort in bringing down prey.

Cheetah Characteristics

Cheetah's distinguishing features
This Cheetah photograph, taken as the sleek cat pauses briefly and turns its head, illustrates many of the cheetah’s characteristic or distinguishing features.

  • A member of the cat family, the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is uncompromisingly built for speed
  • It is lightly built (compared to leopard or lion), with long, slender legs. The back thighs are powerful and muscular
  • The feet are small, with claws unsheathed for better grip while running
  • The head is small with large nostrils for sucking in oxygen, while the chest is relatively broad in relation to rest of the body
  • The tail is long for helping with balance while running at speed; the bottom section of the tail is ringed in black and white, ending in a white tip.

For more about cheetah, see Cheetah Information

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