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This is the moment a confused female cheetah mistook a newborn gazelle for her own offspring and ‘kissed’ it affectionately – before realising her error and swiftly slaying it.

Federico Veronesi’s incredible images give new meaning to the phrase ‘circle of life’ as the tiny gazelle innocently approaches an adult cheetah just minutes after its birth, in an attempt to nurse from her.

For ‘quite some time’, the cheetah appeared to confuse the gazelle for her own cub at Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, and lovingly played with it – nuzzling it and even appearing to ‘kiss’ it on its head. 

Gazelle gives birth to a baby at Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, captured by photographer Federico Veronesi

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Gazelle gives birth to a baby at Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, captured by photographer Federico Veronesi

The newborn gazelle approaches the cheetah, momentarily confusing the wild animal

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The newborn gazelle approaches the cheetah, momentarily confusing the wild animal 

The cheetah's maternal instincts kick it and it begins to nuzzle into the baby for a few minutes

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The cheetah’s maternal instincts kick it and it begins to nuzzle into the baby for a few minutes 

Having been distracted for a number of minutes by her own maternal instincts, it was only when the baby gazelle tried to run away that the cheetah realised her error and her primal impulse took over – chasing the newborn down and killing it.

 

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Wildlife photographer and safari guide Federico, 44, said: ‘This interaction always moves and surprises people.

‘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.

‘People are generally moved by the baby’s apparent trust in its future killer.

‘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is how the baby’s instinct to stand up and approach its mother to nurse continued despite the fact that the mother had been replaced by the predator.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 unusual behaviour by the little fawn appeared to have triggered the cheetah’s maternal instincts, even though the baby was not her own nor her own species.

The cheetah lovingly played with it - nuzzling it and even appearing to 'kiss' it on its head

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The cheetah lovingly played with it – nuzzling it and even appearing to ‘kiss’ it on its head

The cheetah chases the newborn down after her primal impulse took over and she realised the error of her ways

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The cheetah chases the newborn down after her primal impulse took over and she realised the error of her ways 

The cheetah chases the newborn down and kills it.'Eventually the baby gazelle realised that the cheetah was not its mother and tried to run away, this triggered the cheetah's chasing and hunting instinct,' the photographer said
 
 
 

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