Blood brothers: A family of cheetahs prove blood is thicker than water, even in the wild

All the best TV dramas revolve around themes infused with tension, conflict and resolution, as the main protagonists deal with life, love, loss and friendship, often against a backdrop of family feuds, turf wars, sex and violence. Cheetah Blood Brothers is no exception—except this is no Netflix drama, this is real life as it plays out for a fraternal threesome of felines on the unforgiving terrain of the Linyanti Plains in Botswana.

With astonishing subtlety, the camera gets right inside the dramatic day to day existence of Achilles, Odin and Cheevah, three fully grown male cheetahs from the same litter, who have carved out a patch of the African swampland somewhere to the north of the Okavango Delta. It’s a decent size plot, around 50 sq kilometres, within which they hunt prey with refined, ruthless and well rehearsed efficiency, using their phenomenal speed and the tactical cunning of Achilles, the top cat of the gang.

Cheetahs are the fastest living land-dwelling animals on the planet, capable of rapid acceleration and of reaching speeds in excess of 100km per hour (60mph) in short bursts. If they maintain this speed for too long in pursuit of prey, however, they can overheat and even suffer brain damage. With a top weight of around 50kg, they’re not built for conflict with other meat eaters either, and will choose flight over flight almost every time, meaning that while they catch a lot of prey, they’re often mugged, losing their dinner to other, sneakier or bigger animals.

While they’re together, Achilles, Odin and Cheevah’s reign seems rock solid. But they are surrounded on all sides by other predators, including a rival cheetah, a hard-as-nails hyena, sneaky black-backed jackals and a lame leopard, forced from his position as alpha hunter into a lowly life of scavenging by an injury to his front paw, but a formidable foe nonetheless.

For five years the fab three hold their position of power, but then something happens that threatens the dominance—indeed, the very lives—of the cheetahs. Predictably enough, it’s instigated by the arrival of a transitory female in their domain, but the unforeseeable consequences are shocking.

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On Botswana’s Linyanti Plains, a band of three cheetahs were one of the most efficient hunting forces on the African plains. This trio of brothers hunted as a team and held their territory for over five years, until the day when tragedy struck.

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