Cheetah Mom Protects Cubs From Males in Nail-biting Footage

A ferocious cheetah mom has been filmed protecting her cubs from a coalition of five threatening males.

The footage is part of a documentary, The Way of the Cheetah, which is set to premiere during Big Cat Week on February 8. Made by National Geographic explorers and filmmakers Beverly and Dereck Joubert, the film tells the story of Immani, a female cheetah with four cubs in Kenya.

Cheetahs are incredibly vulnerable. There are only estimated to be around 7,000 left in the world, and their population decreasing. This is largely due to humans infringing on their habitats. They also have a low rate of reproductive success, meaning that as a species they are not always able to have cubs.

In the film, Immani has to avoid a group of five male cheetahs in order to keep her cubs alive. Beverly Joubert told Newsweek that that stand-offs like this could be "chilling" to watch while filming, because of how vulnerable the species is.

Immani is on the ground with one of her more mischievous, male cubs, while the rest of her offspring seek safety in a tree. The five males approach and Immani dashes away with the male cub. The narrator explains that this may have been a "decoy" to lure the males away from her more vulnerable cubs in the tree.

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The cheetah mom is cornered by the males against a stream, when in a surprise turn of events, the cub turns to face the attackers head on, and hiss. After the young males act of defiance, the mom signals for him to escape as she faces the attackers head on. The bold male cub heads back to the tree where his siblings are hiding.

Immani then begins to fight off the males. "She is a ball of fury with fangs and razor sharp claws," the narrator said.

The tension is then so high, that the five males begin to turn on each other. Immani manages to fight off the males, and they leave "bruised."

Beverly Joubert said the encounter shows why coalitions of male cheetahs are rare, as it often becomes a competition for dominance.

This is the first time the Jouberts have made a film on cheetahs. Dereck Joubert told Newsweek that at first it was a challenge to distinguish the cheetah's individual personalities as they have less expressive faces than other big cats.

He said that eventually, however, their personalities shone through. This young male in particular, behaved very differently from his siblings.

National Geographic's Big Cat Week celebrates felines from across the world. It also includes a film on Amur tigers and their battle for survival, and the War of the Lions, which explores which lions from across the world.

On filming The Way of the Cheetah, Beverly Joubert said: "Our goal was to be a story of hope and show the plight of the cheetah, showing that this is where they are: very close to extinction....for us to do a film on cheetah's right now, its a plea to how we can stop the atrocities that is happening to them."