Thursday, December 22, 2011

Spots and stripes: Cheetah speeds across savannah

Niall Firth, technology editor
honorable_mention_108324_nature.jpg(Image: Stefano Pesarelli, National Geographic Photography Contest)

And in a flash, it's all over. A cheetah uses its electrifying speed to outpace an impala and pounce upon its hind quarters, hauling it to the ground where it will tear the unlucky animal's throat out.
Not every hunt is so successful: cheetahs only have a one in two success rate in hunts.
Taken by Stefano Pesarelli in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, the impressionist photo received an "Honorable Mention" in this year's National Geographic photo contest.
Pesarelli said of his photo: "This panning effect, even in its imperfection, with the chromatic harmony of the background, with all the needless information eliminated and the luck of having the big cat's lifted tail in symmetry with the impala horns, brings the observer inside the hunting without distractions."
Cheetahs can reach speeds of up to 120 km/h but only over short distances. They stalk their prey until they are less than 30 metres away before making a sudden lung-bursting dash. Cheetah numbers are decreasing every year, which has been blamed on increased human settlement in the Masai Mara and a high mortality rate, perhaps due to lack of genetic diversity.
More than 20,000 photographs were submitted to the National Geographic contest from over 130 countries and fell into one of three categories: people, places or nature. You can see all of the entries here and the gallery of the best few photos here.

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