This is the moment a confused female cheetah mistook a newborn gazelle for her own offspring and ‘kissed’ it affectionately – before realising her error and swiftly slaying it.
Federico Veronesi’s incredible images give new meaning to the phrase ‘circle of life’ as the tiny gazelle innocently approaches an adult cheetah just minutes after its birth, in an attempt to nurse from her.
For ‘quite some time’, the cheetah appeared to confuse the gazelle for her own cub at Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, and lovingly played with it – nuzzling it and even appearing to ‘kiss’ it on its head.
Gazelle gives birth to a baby at Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, captured by photographer Federico Veronesi
The newborn gazelle approaches the cheetah, momentarily confusing the wild animal
The cheetah’s maternal instincts kick it and it begins to nuzzle into the baby for a few minutes
Having been distracted for a number of minutes by her own maternal instincts, it was only when the baby gazelle tried to run away that the cheetah realised her error and her primal impulse took over – chasing the newborn down and killing it.
Wildlife photographer and safari guide Federico, 44, said: ‘This interaction always moves and surprises people.
‘It shows a side of the cheetah’s psychology that does not often come out. The maternal side and the apparent compassion for its prey.
‘People are generally moved by the baby’s apparent trust in its future killer.
‘What is surprising is how the baby’s instinct to stand up and approach its mother to nurse continued despite the fact that the mother had been replaced by the predator.
‘This unusual behaviour by the little fawn appeared to have triggered the cheetah’s maternal instincts, even though the baby was not her own nor her own species.
The cheetah lovingly played with it – nuzzling it and even appearing to ‘kiss’ it on its head
The cheetah chases the newborn down after her primal impulse took over and she realised the error of her ways
The cheetah chases the newborn down and kills it.’Eventually the baby gazelle realised that the cheetah was not its mother and tried to run away, this triggered the cheetah’s chasing and hunting instinct,’ the photographer said
‘It’s always amazing to watch an animal giving birth, the miracle of life happening right in front of you.’
Federico, from Italy, has been interested in wildlife photography for almost 30 years but was still stunned to witness such an unusual encounter.
Federico said: ‘I was captured by the frailty of this creature and upon seeing the cheetah I realised that this fawn’s life would be very short. The harshness of nature.
Federico Veronesi (pictured), from Italy, has been interested in wildlife photography for almost 30 years but was still stunned to witness such an unusual encounter
‘When the cheetah appeared in the distance I was sure that if she saw the newborn baby she would certainly come to try to hunt it.
‘It’s an easy meal for the cheetah, an opportunity that she would not miss.
‘Eventually the baby gazelle realised that the cheetah was not its mother and tried to run away, this triggered the cheetah’s chasing and hunting instinct.
‘The cheetah eventually caught and killed the baby gazelle with a suffocating bite and ate it.’