Using high-speed cameras, "Cheetah: Fatal Instinct" captures the regal body movements of the world's fastest land mammal. Amazingly, these ferocious hunters begin life on the East African plains as helpless, blind cubs dependent upon their mothers for food and security. It is her responsibility to transform the cute kittens into stealth predators.
Adult males form small teams to cover a specific territory in the African savannah. The females live a solitary lifestyle and simply follow the food. A lone, pregnant cheetah must find her own prey even as the pregnancy weight slows her down. Once the cubs are born, she has to hunt often to supply enough food for the babies. She will live alone with the cubs until it is time to mate again.
From predator to prey
Cheetah cubs are vulnerable to a host of predators, including lions, leopards, and hyenas. Mother cheetahs hide their cubs and relocate often to avoid discovery. Despite their efforts, survival is a combination of luck and instinct.
When two hungry lions notice a first-time cheetah mother, a passing group of wildebeest distracts them before they notice her four cubs. Two of the wildebeest lead the lions to an older cheetah mother and her three cubs. Drawn by the cubs' scent, the lions attack and manage to kill one of the babies. In only one month, her litter of six dwindles to two. Meanwhile, the first-time mother manages to raise three of her four cubs to adulthood.
The need for speed
Although a cheetah can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in three seconds, she can't sustain that speed for long. Stealth is an important skill because potential entrees, like galloping gazelles, sometimes escape by maintaining a steady pace. The savannah's wide, open spaces give cheetahs plenty of room to run, but the flat terrain also makes it difficult to hide. An opportunistic cheetah uses a cloak of rainfall to capture unsuspecting prey.
Young leopards become excited by the smell of their mother's fresh kill. The tots play with their food, dragging it around to simulate a hunt. Cheetah cubs also romp and play to hone their hunting technique. Temperamental warthogs and unassuming ostriches teach the cats not to underestimate their prey.
The young cheetah mother tests the hunting skills of her three cubs. Fast and ferocious, they tackle a gazelle fawn with ease. This proves they are ready to begin independent lives. Her son will team with other males and claim a portion of the savannah. The two sisters will separate and eventually repeat their mother's solitary lifestyle. The mother will soon mate again. Will her next litter fare as well as the first?