A Nomadic tribesman of the San people strides across the hot Kalahari Desert — in the company of a cheetah he has helped to tame. Though they’re killers in the wild, these big cats are surprisingly easy to domesticate.
The animals in these striking pictures, taken in the Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary in Namibia, were hand-reared from cubs after their mother was shot by poachers five years ago.
After stretching their legs, the cats — who can run 100 metres in 4.5 seconds — even play ‘fetch’ when the tribesmen throw bits of rope for them to chase.
The cheetahs are so tame you can tickle them under the chin, and they drink water from the sinks at the home of 35-year-old Marlice Van Vuuren, who set up the sanctuary in 2007.
She now lives there full-time with a team of helpers and employs around 20 tribesmen to help care for a range of rescued and orphaned animals, including lions, leopards, wild dogs and baboons.
As babies, the cheetahs snuggled up in homemade sleeping bags and played with toy mice. Now they’re adults, they still come into Marlice’s house to watch daytime TV — before going off to hunt at night.
Tragically, the cats are an endangered species with only 12,000 to 15,000 left in the wild. The San tribe — once known as Kalahari Bushmen — who care for these orphans, are endangered too, with fewer than 35,000 left in Namibia.
No one knows how long the cheetahs or the San people can exist in this wild landscape. But for now, they live in extraordinary harmony.