Cheetahs catch impala, and release it alive


In a moment reminiscent of the classic children's book The Tawny Scrawny Lion , a wildlife photographer caught a pack of cheetahs in a remarkably benevolent mood—sparing the life of a young impala. In fact, after the cheetahs chased down and trapped the impala, they only subjected it to some light batting about, licking and nuzzling before allowing it to flee.

Officially, it's a rare example of what happens when cheetahs catch an animal they're too full and tired to eat.

No word on whether said impala has five fat sisters and five fat brothers, or whether they were able to convince the cheetahs to become pescetarians. And, yes, I know it's the Daily Mail. But come on, it's cute. And there's photographic evidence. Go check out the rest of the pics.

Edited: Sadly, I may have been led astray. A couple commenters posted a link to the full series of photographs. It looks like (brace yourselves) the Daily Mail made the story up and (again, brace) the cheetahs actually ate the baby impala after all. Photos (at least, the pre-death ones) are still cute, though. And The Tawny Scrawny Lion is still an awesome book.

Daily Mail: Pictured: Three Cheetahs Spare Tiny Antelope's Life


  1. According to the top comment under the article though, the impala is eaten in the ‘original’ photos and the Mail is accused of anthropomorphism. Add that to its long list of sins.

  2. Is it possible they only caught that Impala and rubbed their scent on it to convince the other Impalas that they’re more okay to hang out around than previously thought? Or maybe they like babies too

  3. Meh.
    I see no reason to doubt the photographer’s own words as they are reported in the article. None.

  4. Head to and search for cheetah and impala. You’ll see that at the end, the 3 cheetahs ate the impala.

  5. Cheetahs don’t tend to run in packs (except for brothers and sisters that hang around together for a while right after they get the boot from their mom). Mother cheetahs often catch young impalas and hand the killing duty off to her young. It takes them a while to figure out that the springy thing in front of them is meat. So I’m pretty sure it’s either a training situation or just young cheetahs having a larf.

  6. Hey red panda look at the numbering of those fotos you linked to: the one getting eaten is an earlier, different impala.

    I still see no reason to doubt the photographer’s veracity.

  7. Why is there a strip of concrete running through the grass in one of those pictures taken out in the wilds? It looks sort of posed to me.

  8. RedPanda’s right. The numbering of the photos is still in line with the earlier photos – it’s just numbered out of sequence. And from the photographer’s own caption of the photo: “Caption : After playing with the young Impala, Cheetah brothers have killed it and eaten.”

  9. “The predator does not hate its prey. The predator loves its prey. Prey is good. Prey assuages hunger.” — Frank Herbert, quoted from memory, I think in _God_Emperor_Of_Dune_.

    Prey that you don’t actually need, or that can’t actually escape, is also one of the best toys ever invented. But when you play with one of these too long or too roughly, either you break it or the batteries run down. After that, of course, you might as well eat it.

    (“It’s all fun until someone’s neck gets broken. Then it’s only fun for some.”)

    Remember too that the rubbing-cheek-against gesture doesn’t mean “you’re my friend” — it means “I’m marking you with my scent so everyone knows I’ve staked a claim to you.” The two are sometimes, but not always, equivalent.

  10. Hmmm, it does appear that the reporter – or his editor – may have added a “happy ending”, as the text of the article does not quote the photographer as to the end of this tale.

    So the photographer is not the cheat here, if cheat there be.

    So… my apologies for earlier calling him a cheetah.
    It does seem the cheetah here is the newspaper doing the reporting.
    Preying upon the readers’ tender sentiments, so to speak.

  11. Question for radio Yerevan: Is it true that these cheetahs caught an impala, batted it around, then released it alive?

    Answer: In principle, yes. But in fact they didn’t bat it around but brutally lacerated it with their claws; and they didn’t release it alive, but they ate it.

  12. I’m pretty sure that what happened here is this; we have photos of an elderly impala, no longer able to help or provide it’s herd with their basic needs – with his failing eyesight and hearing he can no longer help find safe feeding grounds for his fellow impala. He therefore does what is right and expected. He walks withing range of local predators, cheetah in this case, and lays down his life knowing that it will save a young or sickly impala from an early demise. The cheetahs, understanding his sacrifice, give the impala a peaceful, painless death.

  13. The old newspaper game of “What a good picture. Let’s make up a story around it.”

    My personal blogging rule — when the story is from the Daily Mail, warn everyone that it might be a fake.

  14. I did see something on TV the other day about this same kind of thing happenening with a lioness. She ended up releasing the animal after playing and cuddling with it gor an hour or so… So this kind of thing CAN happen.

  15. Let’s be clear here: anthropomorphism is both essential and necessary to any human understanding of other living things.

    We have nothing else to go by.

    Anthropomorphism is not a bad thing, nor to be in any way avoided: if in fact it could ever be avoided, which it cannot.

    You cannot “look around your own corner”: you cannot jump above your own knees.

    Long live anthropomorphism!
    Long live the essence of the unity of the biosphere!
    Down with those who bring men down to the level of beasts, rather than raising the beasts to the level of men!

  16. Cat’s play when they’re young. Domestic cats retain that, but it looks more like the younger Cheetahs are just learning how to kill.

    That photo where they’re holding it by the neck isn’t any kind of sweet, that’s just them practicing the kill.

    More like impala Stockholm syndrome. Now how’s that for anthropomorphism?

  17. Meat tastes better if the animal dies happy. Higher blood sugar, less lactic acid and stress hormones. So, maybe they were just preparing it for dessert!

  18. I was hoping it was evidence of higher intelligence, in which the cheetahs were deliberately trying to create a generation of impalas that were friendly to them, so they could then cull the herd freely like a farmer.

    1. I was hoping it was evidence of higher intelligence

      I’d say it was pretty intelligent of the cheetahs to convince the impala that life was meaningless, and that a better world lay after death, thereby assuring an easy kill. Kind of like Babe getting the ewes to line up and march into the pen by talking to them instead of chasing them, except more devious. Yes, I’d say this is a new breed of cheetah.

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