A newborn gazelle was killed by a cheetah after it approached the big cat, mistaking it for its mother. The incident took place in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve and was beautifully captured by Wildlife photographer Federico Veronesi, who released the photos Friday.
The series of photos begins with the tiny gazelle approaching the predator right after birth. The big cat then appears to kiss the gazelle. Upon realizing its mistake, the little fawn tries to run away but it is too late as the cheetah claws it before sinking its teeth into the newborn’s neck and killing the animal.
Recalling the incident, the photographer said, “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. 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is how the baby’s instinct to stand up and approach its mother to nurse continued despite the fact that the mother had been replaced by the predator.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 is unusual behavior but the little fawn appeared to have triggered the cheetah’s maternal instincts, even though the baby was not her own nor her own species.”
Veronesi, who has been into wildlife photography for almost three decades, said the unusual encounter left him stunned.
“I was captured by the frailty of this creature and upon seeing the cheetah I realized that this fawn’s life would be very short. The harshness of nature. 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,” he said.