"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Africa Journals, Ch. 37, Cheetah in the Lapa

The Africa Journals

Chapter 37
cheetah in the lapa 

Once upon a time, a lazy hunter stole a cheetah’s three cubs, planning to train them to hunt for him.  The cheetah returned to her den to find her cubs gone and began to weep.   A wise man from the tribe found the lazy hunter and returned the cubs to her, but her crying had stained her face permanently.   And that is why the cheetah’s face has a dark line under its eyes.  Today the tear stains are a reminder to hunt in the honorable way.—African fable

We return to the lapa expecting breakfast, certainly not a cheetah!   Yet there he is—a gorgeous full-grown adult male standing right where we had recently petted the trunks of elephants.   Its long legs, deep chest with thin waist, and enlarged nostrils, cheetahs are built for speed.
His stares intently at the bushveld, looking for the slightest movement.  He couldn’t care less about us slow-moving noisy tourists.   He wants a better challenge.   Oh, and then there’s the fact that he’s wearing a collar and leash.

This is Sylvester, orphaned when only days old and raised as a house cat until he reached a size where more professional surroundings were required.   Since then he’s been an ambassador for the big cats, trained to tolerate the petting, photo-taking tourists and the ohs and ahs of elementary classes that visit him.   Okay, so the adults make those same sounds.

Sylvester is four years old.   the fastest animals on earth, cheetahs can go from zero to 62mph in three seconds and reach speeds of 70mph.   Their flexibility allows them to turn instantly as well as decrease their speed in a flash.

Adult male cheetahs weigh up to 140 lbs. and stand about 30 inches at the shoulder.  Their tails are about three feet long.

Sylvester's attention was on the bush and things we humans couldn't see.

The only species of big cats with semi-retractable claws.

Sylvester might well be the only cheetah in the world with its own Facebook page: 


Henry and Sylvester share a moment.

We all visit with Sylvester, pet his short, coarse fur and have photos taken.

Then, a wonderful tasty breakfast in the lapa.

 Beans, scrambled egg with scallions, back bacon, tomato, sausages, potatoes.  Incredibly, my clothes tell me I've actually lost some weight.

Sylvester and I have a moment.

And, I got Emily's autograph: 

How did they manage this?   All the elephants are trained to lift a front foot which is then swabbed with ink or paint.  The paper is slipped into place so when the elephant lowers its foot: BINGO!  Autograph.   The paper?   Made from elephant dung.


  1. Now how did we know .. in our closing comments for your last post .. we surmized .. IS THERE A .. REST OF THE STORY .. about a Cheetah in the Lapa. This post about Sylvester is just another in a series of positively GREAT POSTS ! The food looks beyond wonderful .. I am starving hungry as I write this and can fairly taste your meal shown above. We imagine that Sylvester is kept very well fed and NEVER hungry .. at least when he is out amongst humankind. Much Joy from Cap and from Patti ..

  2. Wonderful fable, super photo of you and Sylvester. awesome memories.

  3. I love this leopard!!!! He's beautiful. Gotta share this on my FB page!!!!

  4. Oops...cheetah!! I flunked animals in kindergarten!!!!

  5. Have always loved cats...in college I wanted to have an ocelot...didn't happen. Noticed on the picture of Sylvester's paw where you mentioned his retractible claws that he does have a dew claw as well. And then, on the back bottom of his foot he has what looks like a huge thorn. Interesting. Loved Emily's footprint!! Hugs. Patti