Swimming cheetah?

Feb 28, 2008 Selinda Camp
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Sighting: Swimming female cheetah
Location: Selinda Camp, NG16 (Selinda Concession), northern Botswana
Date: 8 February 2008
Observers: Ute Latzke, Roberto Viviani & Kim Nixon

"Cats hate water," so the age old adage goes. Well, not in northern Botswana and not during either the winter flood season in the Okavango or during high rainfall summers in the Okavango and Selinda/Linyanti area. The latter has been the case the past few months and high rainfall has caused an inundation of floodplains and swelling of channels and rivers. In cases like this lion, leopard, cheetah and even smaller carnivores are forced to ford open water in their attempts to cover their territories and to find enough food to survive.

This is potentially fatal, a case of entering unfamiliar environments with potential encounters with predators such as crocodiles perfectly adapted to this niche. More often than not low density species like cheetah are not seen indulging in this behaviour and instead only their tracks are seen entering the water.

We were really lucky at the beginning of February while visiting the Selinda Concession to come across a young cheetah just about to enter the Selinda Spillway near Selinda Camp. As we approached and spotted her we noticed her distaste and hesitation at entering the water. She was clearly nervous and scanned the water's surface, pacing up and down on the bank before finally taking the plunge so to speak. A few looks to her left and right and she was off... hissing at imaginary crocodiles all the way across the water.

Had we arrived here five minutes before or after, we would have missed this unusual scene.

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