September 10, 2013

Cheetahs and Tourists, Kenya

Photograph by Yanai Bonneh, Your Shot

This Month in Photo of the Day: The Stories Behind Your Shots

When Yanai Bonneh saw a pair of cheetahs jump onto the top of a tourist vehicle, the Your Shot contributor "didn't think too much, only realized it was an unusual moment, pulled out my camera, and started clicking." For Bonneh, it was "the opportunity of a lifetime" during a visit to Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve. "Later in the evening, I stopped on this photo, and what came out was only a big 'wow.'"

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79 comments
jackie childs
jackie childs

there are so many interesting elements to this photo. You are drawn to looking again and again in case you've missed something.

Syed Ali
Syed Ali

Only NGS is capable to produce such great moments,ty.


cindy wheeler
cindy wheeler

The cheetah on top is probably the one called Malaika and her cub is on the tire. Malaika regularly jumps on vehicles in the Mara. She jumped on ours to escape some topi that were chasing her In June, 2012. I thought it was very cool!  There are lots of photos on the web of cheetahs on the top of vehicles. And yes, we saw her relieve herself inside more than one vehicle and she poo'd on top of one of them. :)

Fast forward a year (june 2013) and our guide this time would drive away so Malaika couldn't jump on the roof. He was worried that she or her cub could get injured jumping on and off the vehicle and if that happened and she couldn't hunt, she would die. Not so cool. 

Malaika had 2 cubs in 2012 and there is speculation (by the guides in the Mara) that one of the game vehicles ran over and killed one of the cubs. The tiny cubs would sit on the ground very near the vehicle while they waited on Mom to come down and it would be impossible for the guides to always be able to see them. I have a photo of one cub sitting on the ground at the back of the vehicle on the passenger side. No proof of how the cub died and no one has owned up to doing it but they believe that's what happened. Not so cool.

Yanai Bonneh has made a beautiful image of this activity and I would have been excited to have taken it myself before I was made aware of the possible consequences. I just wish more drivers and guests in the Mara were informed why it isn't a good idea to allow the cheetahs to jump on the vehicles. 

Malcolm Kantzler
Malcolm Kantzler

Masai Mara cheetahs are particularly acclimated to vehicles, but if you have watched Animal Planet's "Big Cat Diary," you know that they also have a tendency to use open rooftop hatches as toilets, so be forewarned!

John Lay Jr.
John Lay Jr.

The beauty of this paper is it does not matter who agrees with me.  Cheetah’s are amazing animals who will kill humans if provoked.  Think of it this way, who would be more likely to survive?  A human dropped in to the middle of Kenya, or a Cheetah dropped in to someone’s house?  And please, do take the fact humans have guns out of the equation.  This photo is one of many amazing photos found on National Geographic’s “Photo of the Day” section.  This photo was taken by Yanai Bonneh, in Kenya.   This photo is a reminder that animals are powerful and amazing.  People say humans are at the top of the food chain, but this picture makes me realize how false that statement is. Although this photo may appear to represent cooperation between man and beast, the cold reality is human interaction with these animals is dangerous and disrespectful.    Man must be educated on their habitat and behavior, man must ultimately come to grips with who is really in charge, and learn to live in harmony with these beautiful animals.

                The best part of this picture is our imaginations, the part where we can become the Cheetah.  If I was the Cheetah staring off in to the distance, the one standing on the tire, I would be thinking “nope, nothing is coming” then saying “go for it, go for it, I’m hungry”.  The image depicts cheetahs in their habitat, but humans invasively partaking on some joy ride through their home.  The example above illustrates how they could more likely survive in our environment than we could in their environment.  These animals are surly looking for food, or perhaps they just being curious, but who wants a 200 lb cheetah on the roof of their truck?  A great deal of respect for the cheetah’s environment is a great focus of this picture.  The fact they are on “top” of the vehicle illustrates another.  Who exactly is in charge?

                Throughout childhood, into teenage years, and now as adults, humans are indoctrinated with thoughts of being on top of the food chain and furthermore being in charge of beast.  We are not, and this picture proves it.  Notice the second cheetah, the one on the top of the vehicle.  See the hair standing up on its neck and the retracted position of the woman in the back seat.  What about the woman who is not moving to get a better angle for the picture, but rather is holding her camera upside down without even looking through the viewfinder to snap a shot.  They are scared, scared this powerful beast is going to rip them to shreds.  The cheetah, on the other hand, is not the least bit scared.  Instead, the beast is curiously testing the environment around it to find food and potentially something to play with.  If humans were on top of the food chain, would they be so retracted and seemingly fearful for their life?  I would not  think so.  But this is yet just one example of the distance humans and animals are from reaching pure harmony.

                Let us take that word harmony literally.  Harmony: agreement and concord.  So we must live in agreement with the beast.  We must understand and respect their space, food, and other natural resources.  We must be like the photographer.  Not the photographers in the vehicle, the professional photographer who has kept his distance from the beast and captured it this amazing frame.  It is not meant for us to have pet cheetah’s no more than it is meant for humans to breathe underwater.  There is much to be gained by studying this photo and the harmony represented by the respect the photographer is showing for the beasts by keeping his distance.   Then again, this may just be a picture of a private reserve where the animals have been tamed.

                It could be possible that the photo is depicting a family on vacation enjoying tamed wild life on a game reserve in Kenya.  The cheetah’s could be trained to walk on the tops of vehicles, and may do so for rewards hidden in the seams of vehicles.  The entire scene could be staged to show “harmony” in the eyes of the park, and the abstract is simply an enticement or marketing strategy for the park.

                Man and woman being in harmony with the environment includes, but is not limited to, animals.  We should be stewards of the natural resources we have.  As this picture depicts, we are not the ones in charge; animals are in charge.  Understanding their behavior and respecting the resources on our Earth will help preserve the photographers frame for generations to come.

Marco Bizzarri
Marco Bizzarri

They look like such marvelous inquiring big cats...! MB

Sandy Gordon
Sandy Gordon

Unbelievable shot Yanai....I would have been a little nervous!

Josie Horne
Josie Horne

I did read the comments,and once in a life time is right.

Shannon T
Shannon T

Oh my gosh, what a moment of bliss to be that close to two beautiful cheetahs. Totally jealous of those people. Fantastic photo Yanai.

J. Lee
J. Lee

Amazing! Even the driver is snapping away with his smartphone.

donald ourand
donald ourand

well... i was going to eat your wife but i'm going to have to take out the media first.

maureen jackson
maureen jackson

Best way to shoot an animal!!!!  Gorgeous picture...thanks for sharing!

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