Four male cheetahs were caught on camera engaging in a very brutal mating ritual with a female cheetah. The video, taken at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa, shows the group ignoring a springbok antelope standing nearby as they make their way towards a lone female named Corrine.
The predators make their way slowly through the grassland, keeping their focus on the target. They suddenly break into a run and all four pounce on the female cheetah. A brutal fight ensues, with the cats jumping, clawing and biting their victim. She also puts up a fight, clawing and snarling at her attackers.
"It was like watching a gangster movie, being outnumbered four to one," Ria Van Greunen, who captured the event and posted it on Facebook, said of the conflict. She added that the "4 Musketeers" left Corrine with a gaping wound and bite marks over her back. She also had blood in her mouth.
According to her account, which was published on Latest Sightings, the female was attempting to chase down her prey when she drew the attention of her attackers.
"Corrine charged the springbok, but the attempt failed. The buck then ran off in the direction of the 4 Musketeers. They did not really know what was going on and tried to catch the springbok running in and out amongst them. Clearly, they were not very happy knowing that Corrine was on their turf," Greunen recalled.
"When they first began to fight, she had made no effort to move and they attacked her four times with intervals of two to four minutes. The in-between times they were also licking their wounds not prepared to give up so easily," she continued, adding that the safari group then heard 'calling' sounds nearby.
They assumed the cries were from Corrine's cubs and were the reason the cat chose to stay and be attacked rather than run away and put her young ones in danger.
Gus Mills, a retired biologist and cheetah expert, explained that the event was a rare occurrence and could have been because the female cheetah had gone into estrus and was ready to reproduce. He told National Geographic that sparring was an uncommon courting technique and even the size of the male group was unusual.
Male cheetahs tend to roam with their siblings in groups of two or three and, in this case, the four could have been brothers.
A few days after the attack, Corrine was spotted roaming the grasslands again — a sign that she had not been injured too badly. "We don't realise how tough those animals are," Mills said. "Wild animals are really pretty tough. They have to be."