An extraordinary photo opportunity presented itself when a troop of five cheetah siblings were crossing the fast-moving Talek River in Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya.
It’s generally believed that cats don’t like water, but these big spotted felines had no choice but to hop in and swim in order to make it across.
Johansen explained in a Facebook post, “A unique situation to witness made the perfect ending to the day when the five cheetah brothers decided to cross the flooded Talek River despite high current and the danger of crocodiles.”
Getting the incredible photo was the fruit of a great deal of patience on part of Johansen and his fellow photographer Buddhilini de Soyza. Johansen explained to Bored Panda that cheetahs “hunt on both sides of the Talek River, [so it’s no wonder] they wanted to cross it.”
“Normally, they would cross the river by walking on stones but this year, it had been raining for a long time and because of the flooding, it was very difficult for them to do so,” he added.
Such difficult conditions mean that the cheetahs spend a much longer time than usual weighing the decision and finding the safest places to cross.
“Not long ago, another well-known cheetah drowned or got killed by the crocs when it was crossing the same river so it really was a big risk,” Johansen noted. “After surveying the area for a long time, the five cheetah brothers went for it.”
“First, the leader cheetah jumped into the river, and two more soon followed,” Johansen said. “The two smallest cheetahs in the group waited for a few seconds before they followed as well.” The fact that the pack each got across at their own pace gave the photographers extra time to snap some extraordinary shots of each of them.
Johansen’s photo, appropriately titled “Swimming for Life,” was the recipient of Slovenia’s coveted Magical Nature: Nature Photograph of the Year 2019 award. And the photographer was named ambassador of the French nonprofit Cheetahs for Ever.
With his photos, Johansen advocates for programs in the Maasai Mara National Park, whose aim is to protect breeding cheetahs and cubs and boost their overall population. There are less than 7,100 cheetahs living in the wild, according to the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
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