Its steady yellow eyes scanning distant gazelles on their travels.
Tourists cloistered in a nearby van click away at the spotted cat,
Ooo-ing and aah-ing at this epitome of feline grace.
The lanky super-predator sashays down to the wide open space,
Its narrow shoulders rising and falling like sea waves
As it treads silently through the tall grass.
Sensing danger, the gazelles stop grazing and raise their heads.
The hunter freezes, but maintains her steady gaze.
When the gazelles decide they were mistaken and dip their heads to graze,
The fastest sprinter on God’s green earth explodes from her hiding place,
Scuttling the prey the way the wind scuttles chaff.
The cheetah’s target is a panicked fawn and she keeps it in focus;
Twenty seconds later, the hunt is over and circling vultures
Indicate the presence of a carcass.
There can be little doubt that the cheetah was designed for speed.
Flaring nostrils and elongated lungs serve the same function
As the “turbo” feature in cars of the Sports Edition
While a large heart quickly replaces oxygen depleted during action.
The elongated trunk and legs allow for strides that are simply incredible
And the spine is flexible enough to arc into hyper- or parabolas.
The general frame is so light that the long tail is able
To counter-balance the body during high-speed swerves.
The claws are non-retractable and act like the spikes on athlete’s shoes.
With all these features, it’s no wonder that when the cheetah runs,
It’s poetry in motion.
But Mother Nature has many children and rarely favours one over another:
The cheetah was granted speed but denied power
Which was okay before the advent of the panthers –
Lions and leopards have immense power and deafening roars.
Another blow was struck at the end of the last Ice Age,
When the Great Flood nearly put paid to the cheetahs’ numbers.
To top it all, humans have drastically reduced their natural habitat
And then they rub salt into the wound by driving their vehicles into the hunts,
Hoping to see the cheetah blaze across the savannah.
A new meaning has been added to the cheetah’s black “tear-drop stains”
As the last of these magnificent cats roam Africa’s great plains
And although conservationists moan the demise of the cheetahs,
I am personally grateful to the God of my ancestors
That He has allowed me to gaze upon such wonderful creatures!
(c) Alex N Nderitu
Buy Alexander Nderitu's prose and poetry books at:
1. Only one female cheetah survived the last Ice Age and it is from this lucky specimen that ALL living cheetahs are descended.
2. All modern cheetahs are so closely related that you can take a skin graft from any cheetah and plant it on ANY OTHER cheetah with 100% succes. And if you can tell any two adult cheetahs apart, then you're a better man than me, Gunga Din!
3. Unfortunately, the sabre-tooth cats (lions?) never survived the Flood (end of the last Ice Age). Their curved canines were 7 inches long!
4. If there were cheetahs in the Olympics, the 100 metres record would stand at under 4 seconds!