After mother leaves her cubs, littermates stay together from several weeks to several months. The length of time littermates stay together depends on how much each member of the group benefits from it. Young female cheetahs tend to be more successful hunters and may leave the group to start an independent life and not share their prey with littermates. Neema raised her first litter at the age of 5,5 years, which often happens in the wild, because by this time the females have gained sufficient life experience. After Neema left her 17-month-old cubs (one male and two females), they stayed together for another 3 months. At first, adolescents survived mainly on hares and fawns of antelopes and gazelles, but gradually developed hunting skills that allowed them to hunt adult Thomson’s gazelles and sub-adult Impalas. At the same time, one female often initiated movements, and the rest followed her, while the other showed outstanding hunting abilities. Three months later, she separated from her littermates and quite successfully hunts on her own. Based on the individual characteristics of each member of the sibling group, the Mara guides and rangers suggested to name the male Noma (Tough, in Swahili), his sister-companion Nariku (The One who is followed, in Maa) and the sister-hunter – Nagol (The One who relies on her own efforts, in Maa). Life in the savannah is full of surprises and dangers, and we believe that young cheetahs will live up to their names and make a significant contribution to the free-ranging cheetah population of the Mara.




If cheetahs lose a family member, they return to the place where they were together the last time. Nelemek did this for the next three days after losing her cub. On the second day, she successfully hunted and by the evening she had eaten a sub-adult Thomson’s gazelle. And on the third day, while patrolling the forest, she encountered a very shy male. The most interesting thing is that it was the son of Naserian, born in 2017 in the Mara Triangle. In 2018, his mother adopted her sister’s Naretoi son, and within some months, Naserian raised two sons: her own and her adopted one. However, the coalition did not take place, and son of Naretoi separated from his foster family in 2019 and used to hunt alone in the Serengeti. Naserian stayed with her son until May 2019, and left him later in the Serengeti. The young male for some time was roaming in the Triangle, and since mid-2020 he began to explore the depths of the Mara, not only in the Reserve, but also in the adjacent conservancies. And here he was in Ol Choro conservancy. From the behavior of the female, it was obvious that the couple knew each other, and it was likely that they had mated before. The couple spent the whole day together, and the female felt quite comfortable with the male: both slept cuddled up to each other. Since the female was exhausted, she (and the male along with her) slept peacefully for more than 6.5 hours, and after sunset she led the male into the forest. By morning she was alone. Usually after the loss of offspring, females come into estrus within a month. Since females are induced ovulators, they need an external stimulus for this, like an unexpected meeting with a male. A meeting with a 5-year-old healthy male can be the beginning of a new cycle and subsequent mating and the birth of new litter.




Female cheetahs in the wild fail to raise their first litter. To be successful, they need experience, which sometimes takes 6 years to acquire. Interestingly, some female cheetahs give birth to 2, maximum 4 cubs, while others give birth to 5-6 cubs, and this trend continues throughout life. The most critical are the first 3-5 months, when most of the cubs die from various causes, including predation. But cheetahs at any age are vulnerable to larger and more successful predators such as lions, hyenas and leopards. And although hyenas do not attack adult cheetahs, they often take their prey, which is critical for a nursing female cheetah, since she must take care of her offspring. Loss of prey within a week can lead to reduced milk supply and weakened young. Therefore, while the cubs are small, the females first feed them, and then eat themselves in order to maintain an interest in hunting. In early October 2021, at the age of 2 years and 4 months daughter of Kisaru from the last litter gave birth to 7 cubs. In the first 4 months she lost 6 cubs, but was successfully raising one son. By 7 months old, she had trained him to hunt and kill prey on his own. For example, on May 28, she started hunting for an adult male Thomson’s gazelle, and her son joined in and independently not only caught up, but also strangled the gazelle while his mother watched him. The cub itself dragged the prey into the tall grass, where the female and the cub ate in turn, alternating in scanning the area for potential ganger. The ability to successfully hunt for a lone male is extremely important for survival in an independent life. Unfortunately, within an hour, a hyena appeared and took the prey, despite of the female’s efforts to chase it away. The next day, Nelemek hunted again and this time the family ate well. As the daughter of a successful female, Kisaru, and the granddaughter of one of the most successful females in the Mara, Amani, Nelemek has done a wonderful job and gave hope that the cub will grow up to be a competent hunter. However, despite the constant monitoring and assistance of the rangers of 4 conservancies, in the early morning of June 19, 8-month-old cub died. A detailed autopsy revealed that he had 28 wounds on both side of the body, of which 2 were fatal, including a broken skull and the neck. The nature of the wounds showed that they were inflicted by one or more large predators – lions, which often bite through the skull of a cheetah when attacking. The lioness was within 100 meters at the time the cub was discovered. Nelemek did not see what happened to her cub, she was in the forest by the road, behind the cub, which, apparently, was frightened off by the predators. For 2 days, the female constantly called the cub and circled in the area, returning to the place where apparently she was with him for the last time. On the first evening, two lionesses appeared at that place, and Nelemek escaped from them into the forest across the field. To be continued.




2021 has been a tough year for cheetahs with 3 male coalitions consisting of a pair of males losing one member each. Among them was the coalition of Mkali and Mwanga. Young males were first sighted in the Mara Triangle in June 2019. Since the males were not similar to each other (very likely not siblings or had different fathers), we named them accordingly: the male with large bright spots was called Mkali (bright), and the other with small spots Mwanga (light). By the end of the year, the brothers wandered along the far side of the Reserve – in the Tipilikwani-Talek area, and later explored the Olkiombo – Rhino Ridge areas, where they shared the territory with the sons of Rosetta Ruka and Rafiki. Like some coalitions Like some coalitions in the Mara, sometimes Mkali and Mwanga would split up while courting the females, and then reunited again. But on September 25, 2021, we found Mwanga not only alone, but injured. Since then, no one has seen Mkali, which probably means he died. The deep wound on Mwanga’s thigh was not fresh, and was located in a place where the cheetah could hardly reach to get rid of necrotic tissue. To avoid infection of the wound, the KWS veterinarian Dr. Limo decided to provide assistance. Over time, the injured muscle tissues recovered, the wound healed, and a barely noticeable scar remains in its place. From the very beginning of recovery, the male hunted independently. With only about 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild, the life of this 5-year-old male is extremely important for both the Mara population and the species as a whole. Having lost a partner, Mwanga successfully hunts and still patrols the areas where he was with a partner, and where he has a high chance of meeting different females and leaving his genetic “trace” and contributing to the genetic diversity of the cheetah population.




When a cheetah mother leaves her juvenile cubs (usually while pregnant), they stay together for a couple of weeks to several months. During this time, the young females leave the sibling group, and the brothers continue to stay together in an alliance that is called the male coalition from that point on. In most cases, young females remain within the mother’s home range while young males travel far and establish their territories/homes in remote areas. This mechanism helps to avoid inbreeding between family members. Some young cheetahs born in the reserve travel far from their natal area, crossing the Sand and Mara rivers into the Serengeti or the Mara Triangle. Over the past 6 months, 5 cheetahs from the reserve have been spotted regularly on the other side of the Mara River in the Mara Triangle. Among them are Ngao and Namelok (the only cubs raised by Nashpai, Rani’s daughter and Shakira’s granddaughter) and Rosetta’s cubs: two males Ruka and Rafiki and a female Risasi. Rosetta (Rosa’s daughter and Resi’s granddaughter) raised her only litter in 2020. Although the cubs were born in the Sand River area, the mother took them deep into the reserve and left them in the Simba area. Since the mother left her 18-month-old cubs, they have been living together for 3.5 months, wandering in the Mara. For more than a year, young cheetahs have been spotted in different parts of the reserve, including the Mara Triangle. At the beginning of their independent life, the brothers were not successful hunters and often were struggling to take down antelopes. At the age of 3.5 years, they become skilled hunters and manage to catch subadult wildebeest. Unlike females, males usually do not drag kills to safe places, and eating in open areas becomes challenging due to kleptoparasites: lions and hyenas. Last week they made two kills in one day, but the first (Thomson’s gazelle) was captured by two lions, and the second (a subadult wildebeest) was successfully eaten by brothers within 6 hours. In order not to attract the attention of potential kleptoparasites, cheetahs do not start eating sometimes for more than an hour. Noticing a hyena in the distance, the brothers waited for 45 minutes, and as soon as hyena far enough, they started eating, taking turns so that one of them was always on the alert. Interestingly, their pregnant sister Risasi was 1-2.5 km away from them for several days. For various reasons, in the Mara, some females manage to raise their first, and sometimes only, litter at the age of 6 years. Risasi hasn’t had success in the reserve yet and hopefully he will have better luck in the Mara Triangle.