Three Big Cats occupy the top of the food chain, but they must compete for prey and territory in one of the wildest places in Africa. ‘Big Cats, Small World’ examines how these deadly rivals survive in a landscape where they keep bumping into each other.
In northern Botswana, a beguiling wilderness supports a dozen lionesses and cubs under the protection of two ageing males. Roaring and scent-marking, the males patrol their borders proclaiming ownership of the woodlands, the grasslands, the floodplains and the river. The pride anchors themselves in whichever habitat is currently richest in their favourite prey—and often the prey of two other Big Cats, who dare to live in their world.
When new male intruders threaten to take over the pride, it sets off a dramatic chain of events. One of the lionesses gathers her young cubs and flees to the woodlands to protect their lives. Without the help of her sisters, she has to catch smaller meals, bringing her into direct competition with a pair of cheetahs and a leopard.
The leopard argues for her territory with hoarse coughs—a warning to her adult daughter to respect her boundaries. This patch of woodland is not large enough for the two of them. Not to mention the trespassing lions.
She lacks the power to challenge the lions. But she’s resilient and resourceful and uses her wooded home to her advantage. As she moves through the shadows, her coat helps her hide in plain sight, a useful accessory for a stalk-and-pounce predator. Since she can’t run far or fast, tall trees provide a refuge, and a pantry, for this uniquely arboreal big cat—without them she would lose her kills, and possibly her life, to the lions.
Since birth, the cheetah brothers have spent every moment together. With no family responsibilities, their bachelor days are filled with hunting, avoiding enemies and securing their territory. But what’s it all for if they have no heirs?
They lack the vocal chords for roaring, leaving them with scent-marking as the only means to define their vast range and lure scarce females. But the leopardess has been leaving her own scent on top of theirs, chasing away any female cheetahs that might be interested in them.
And how can they make time for romance, when their lives are constantly at risk? They’re firmly at the bottom of the Big Cat hierarchy in terms of size, power and courage. They can’t climb well, or fight. But boy, they can run!
As events and changing seasons conspire to bring these Big Cats together, can they rely on their unique skills to avoid deadly conflict? Combining powerful storytelling with the latest scientific research, we delve deep into their lives to reveal the strategies they’ve evolved to coexist in their shared world.