THE UNION IS OVER, THE COALITION CONTINUES. AN UPDATE ON OLPADAN AND HIS COALITION-MATES

07/27/2021

Over the past month, there have been many events with Olpadan and his coalition-mates. By the end of July, Olpadan’s alliance with Kijana fell apart, lasting less than a month. Kijana returned to Naboisho alone, and on 23 July met his mother Kuahidi in the adjacent Olerai conservancy. She was not very friendly towards her son when he got too close, but they clearly divided the prey, since in the early morning both were with full bellies. The night before, Kuahidi had been looking for prey alone.
Four males continued to travel along the Mara – crossed the Sand River and briefly settled near the Tanzanian border, successfully hunting wildebeests twice a day, and in 5 days reappeared in their usual place – Tipilikwani junction. In the absence of Olpadan, the males acted harmoniously during hunting and bringing down the prey, and showed mild aggression only at the end of the meal, which is typical for groups of cheetahs. They also met with Nora twice.
After parting with Kijana, Olpadan briefly settled in the Survey area of the Reserve, successfully hunting wildebeest calfs. Apparently, he avoided encounters with other cheetahs, as he made no attempts to approach either 4 males or females. On July 23, he was chased by Nashipai as soon as she noticed the male, and on July 26, when he appeared in the territory that the Tano Bora coalition regularly patrolled, he was noticed by 4 males – his former coalition-mates.
The attack by 4 males on the former member of the group, unfortunately, led to serious injuries – in addition to wounds on the body, Olpadan got a serious injury to his right eye. According to the vet doctor’s forecasts, Olpadan’s vision can restore at best by 35%, that is, the male will be able to distinguish the movement of the shadow, but he will not be able to see clearly. A cheetah with one eye can successfully hunt, as the male Kisaru has demonstrated for several years, but in Olpadan’s case, the physiological problem is not as significant as the socio-psychological one.
It is more difficult for a lone male to exist where there are many male coalitions, but a loner can avoid serious injury. During the 4.5 years of the existence of the Tano Bora coalition, we observed them in encounters and fights with 7 different males, and in no case was a single male injured. It is difficult to say how the males would behave towards Olpadan if he wanted to return to the group. When any of the males left the group for several days, he subsequently looked for his coalition, called his coakition-mates and the coalition responded (except for cases when the males were in courtship with the female and avoided competition). Rejoining with coalition-mates was more or less peaceful and only Olpadan attacked the returning male. Over the past months, Olpadan himself has repeatedly left the group for a short time, but has always returned and was accepted, although not very willingly. Most likely, coexistence with other males became difficult for Olpadan, which led to his departure from the group. Very likely 4 males perceive Olpadan as a competitor for all natural resources, and a new meeting with him may be fatal for an adult crippled male. However, animals are adapting to changing conditions, and perhaps Olpadan will be able to develop new strategies that will help him survive in the Mara.

                                   



TANO BORA – NOW FOUR AND TWO

07/01/2021

The cheetah is a highly adaptive and social species: as long-term observations in nature have shown, males are able to form not only permanent, but also temporary alliances with unrelated males. Such unions last as long as it is beneficial for each member. The Tano Bora coalition existed for 4.5 years, while we know that its former leader, Olpadan, was not related to any of the males of this group. After he lost one of his testicles in a fight with males in March 2019, his rank dropped. From the decision maker and leader of the group, he became the last in the chain and the last one to join the meal. In 2020, he tried to join the Mwanga and Mkali coalition, but the males did not accept him. In June of this year, Olpadan left the coalition in Naboisho, where the Tano Bora coalition had formed, and began a lonely life. The four members of his coalition waited for a partner for over 3 weeks, and eventually began to travel around their territory again. All of us were worried – what happened to Olpadan and where is he. The good news is he is alive and well. Moreover, he found another partner – one and a half year old Kijana, the son of Kuahidi. Kijana was the only cub in the litter to survive to independence. Mother left him in February, and he began traveling alone through the conservancies. In June, he was seen in Naboisho, then in Olerai conservancy, and now he came to the Reserve. Yesterday we observed him together with Olpadan, wherein the relationship between the males was very friendly, both behaved like long-term partners from the same coalition. They ate a large male impala together, and rested together after a meal and social grooming. From Serengeti cheetah study it is known, that for the formation of unions of males, two conditions must be met: the males were previously members of coalitions and have lost partners, and their age should not exceed 20 months – adult males see each other as competitors. However, as observations show, nature is rich in variations, as long as they contribute to the survival of the species. Olpadan is over 6 years old and is able to form mutually beneficial alliances with unrelated males. For young Kijana, an alliance with an experienced partner can also be beneficial.

       



SILIGI – COUNTDOWN FROM 5 TO 4

06/29/2021

The last week of June was marked by a pleasant event – 6-year-old Siligi – the sister of Olpadan (one of Tano Bora male coalition), who is known for giving birth to 7 cubs in 2019, showed up with a new litter of 5. The female is in a closed area of the Reserve, her two-month-old cubs are very shy. Unfortunately, on the very first day, a tragedy occurred – one of the cubs was caught and killed by a lioness. The cubs had already eaten and were playing next to the carcass when the female noticed the lionesses from afar. She began to eat greedily. Soon the lioness appeared 100 meters away, attracted by a group of vultures waiting for the Siligi family to finish their meal. Siligi rushed to the lioness and chased her away, while the cubs rushed down to the bushes. However, there were several more lions in the area – 3 adult females and their cubs. One of the lionesses grabbed Siligi’s cub and carried it into the bush. Siligi did not see what happened, and loudly called the cubs, and then began to lead them away from the lions. The next day, she twice returned to the scene, surveyed the area from the elevated points calling for the lost cub. That happens when the female did not see what happened to her cub.

                         



CHAI BOY’S REAPPEARANCE

06/21/2021

If there are several males in a litter, after reaching independence, they remain together for life. Sometimes the coalition accepts unrelated members, towards whom the brothers show both affiliation (friendly) and aggressive behavior. Such a voluntary union lasts as long as it is beneficial to each member of the group. However, in the wild, certain circumstances can lead to the collapse on of the union, for example: territorial dispersal of members attacked by other predators (including conspecifics), the desire of an unrelated member to form a coalition with another male, or competition for a female, as a result of which the male leaves the group, following for the object of courting. Unions made up of unrelated individuals are temporary and can quickly disintegrate. It is not yet known if the Chai Boys were relatives, but since their emergence in the reserve in October 2019, the three shy males have spent 11 months together actively exploring Mara. On September 20, 2020, we met only one of them – the male M107, who was trapped by a coalition of two males – Mkali and Mwanga (see our post). Since then, we have not seen any of the Chai Boys. A pleasant surprise was the appearance in June of this year in the reserve of another member of the Chai Boys group – a male M105. He was still shy, but successfully hunted in the presence of tour vehicles. The recent sighting of M107 gives hope that all three males are alive. Further research will help to understand whether the Chai Boys are relatives or whether the young males have united only for a short time.

           



CHEETAH and SARCOPTIC MANGE – POSITIVE NEWS

03/14/2021

Sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious mite infection caused by Sarcoptes scabiei burrowing under the skin of domestic and wild mammals. It has been reported from 10 orders, 27 families and 104 species of domestic, free-ranging and wild mammals, including cheetahs. Cheetahs acquire it via direct contact with infected prey species or conspecifics. Clinical symptoms of mange depend on the immune status of the respective host. At the latest stages, the skin becomes extensively thickened, greyish in color, there is a marked eosinophilia throughout the epidermis and dermis (the skin becomes red in color) and often almost complete alopecia. The skin cracks, dries and exfoliates exposing the unprotected tissues. Treatment of infected individuals in the field has been successful. In addition, some cheetahs recover by themselves. One of the best examples is a female Maridadi, who we first met as adolescent at the border with Tanzania in 2016 soon after she had separated from her family. In 2018, we found Maridadi in a poor condition with mange (4-5 stage), and informed the KWS Vet team. However, she disappeared for a long time, leaving us in doubt about her physical condition, to appear this year in great shape and accompanied by a big cub! So far, she has had two confirmed litters, and now there is hope that she will be able to raise her cub.
In general, in the population of Mary cheetahs, there is a pronounced trend towards a decrease in the incidence of scabies. In 2012, 22 (10.10.2) cheetahs (29%) were spotted with different stages of mange, of which 8 (3.3.2) were treated by the Veterinary Units, and 3 (1.2) recovered by themselves. In 2014-2015, 10(3.6) were spotted with mange (13%), in 2016, 5(3.2) with mange (8.5%), in 2017, 4(2.2) – 5,4%, in 2018, 2(0.2) – 3%; and in 2019 – 5(3.2) or 7% adult cheetahs, out of which 2 males spent most time in Serengeti. In 2019, two young cheetahs (1.1) have been treated by the KWS Vet Unit and one female recovered by herself. In 2020, 0% cheetahs were spotted with mange.