Photographer Captures Images of Tribesmen Hunting with Cheetahs

   02.25.15

Photographer Jack Somerville originally journeyed to the African coastal nation of Namibia in search of wildlife found nowhere else in the world, but he left with pictures of local hunters instead. The 26-year-old photographer and wildlife conservationist captured extraordinary images of San tribesmen hunting with bows and arrows alongside the fastest land predator on earth: the cheetah. According to the Daily Mail, the rare ritual took place in Naankuse Wildlife Reserve, where Somerville was a guest of the San people. Also known as “bushmen,” the San are a group of indigenous hunter-gatherers that hold territories across several central African nations. Their ways, such as this primitive form of bowhunting, have remained unchanged for centuries.

“The San bushmen of Southern Africa are considered to be the oldest living culture on earth,” Somerville wrote on Facebook. “These gentle people are traditionally hunter gatherers, living harmoniously with wildlife of the Southern African bush. The San will often use their cunning and stealth to steal meat from large carnivores. In return, the San adhere to a strict code whereby they will share their own hunting spoils with surrounding predators. This bond ensures that both man and beast can survive their harsh surroundings.”

Despite this potentially volatile relationship, it seems that the hunters and cheetahs respect one another. The large cats even trail along while the San tribesmen hunt, which is a sign of great bravery for the hunters. The cheetahs are far from tame, although increased encounters with the hunters seemed to have relaxed the predators. Still, a cheetah is a powerful animal, and the tribesmen must remain alert at all times.

“The San hunt on foot, often tracking animals for days,” Sommerville told the Daily Mail. “They use small bows and arrows, as well as snares for smaller animals. The arrows are tipped with poison made from larvae found in Marula fruit. Normally they will hunt anything from guinea fowl to the larger antelopes.”

Beginning in the 1950s, many San moved away from the countryside and into comparatively modern central Namibia. Several communities switched over to relying upon farming as part of the government’s modernization process, and traditional skills such as hunting are now being re-taught by hunters like the men Sommerville traveled with.

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