ROSETTA RAISED HER FIRST LITTER TO INDEPENDENCE

03/28/2020

In the Mara, only 7-15% of cheetah cubs reach independence. Females meet many challenges and not all of them get the opportunity to raise at least one litter. This year, 7-year old Rosetta finally successfully raised her three cubs to independence. She became the third female (after 8-year-old Miale and Rani), who raised her first litter at such a mature age for the first time in their life. After Rosetta left her two sons and one daughter in mid-March, siblings began to visit places that they had become acquainted with while following their mother. From this moment on, they need not only to get food, but also to learn how to protect their own lives and health from competitors for resources, including conspecifics. Therefore, after making a kill, they start eating right away while one of them is still suffocating the prey, and after saturation, leave the place before competitors and enemies got a sight of them. In 2001 and later in 2011, we observed their great-grandmother Resy with her daughter Rosa, who raised Rosetta in 2014. We are now observing fourth generation of this family with the hope that the family genes will be extended over through a female and the males and enrich Mara cheetah genetic diversity.

                             



WEATHER AFFECTS THE SPATIAL DISTRIBUTION OF PREDATORS IN THE MARA

03/12/2020

Cheetahs have been known to seek competition refuges within the landscape with low densities of lions and spotted hyenas. However, a combination of certain environmental factors can change things. Heavy downpours made many parts of the Mara inconvenient for various species of animals, including ungulates and predators, driving them to the more suitable areas. As a result, large herds of antelopes occupied fields of the Talek gate area of the Reserve. It is likely that the abundance of prey reduces intraspecific and interspecific competition. In the area of 9.5 sq. km of the Reserve, from Fig Tree camp towards Maji ya Fisi and to Ilkeliani camp, during one week of February, we observed five different cheetah females: Imani, Miale, Nora, Rosetta with 3 cubs and Busara (whose territory covers Musiara area and the Mara Triangle). In a few occasions, females were 150 m apart and this did not seem to bother them. Next week, apart from a few females, we also found in the same area eight males: the five male coalition (Tano Bora), coalition of two males (Mkali and Mwanga) and a single male Olchorre, who is usually roaming on the side of the Double Cross. For cheetahs, the inconvenience is that the same area also attracted lions, which were sometimes located at a distance of about 100-150m from cheetahs. Even if competing predators do not make direct attempts to attack cheetahs, as the subordinate carnivores, cheetahs have to be extra vigilant so as not to lose their prey or life.

                       



SOCIAL INTERACTIONS BETWEEN CHEETAH MALE COALITIONS

02/21/2020

Cheetah social life is complex – unrelated males form alliances and keep bonds as long as it benefits all members of a group. Probably, under certain circumstances, one of the members may start looking for the alternative group to join. Recently, we observed interesting behavior of a male who was trying to join unrelated male coalition. On 19 February, on their way to Talek river, Tano Bora (coalition of 5 males) spotted two males: Mkali (Bright in Maa) and Mwanga (Light). Fortunately enough, two males spotted the biggest Mara cheetah coalition and rushed towards the river, followed by five sprinters. For some time, all 7 were making sounds indicating aggressive and defensive behaviors deep inside the bushes on the slope of the river. After a few hours, only three individuals remained on the spot: Mkali, Mwanga and Olpadan (ex-leader of the Tano Bora coalition), while four others left. For several hours, Olpadan was following two coalition-mates without any attempt to harm them, but trying to sniff young males and rest nearby. In return, two males displayed defensive behaviors, and often, Olpadan was displaying submissive behavior (sat with the back towards the males). Probably, after losing his leading position among his group members, he attempted to join younger males. Next morning, Mkali was in 1.5 km, calling for his coalition-mate. At the same time, Olpadan was calling from under the same tree where Mkali and Mwanga were resting the previous day. When in the afternoon, three out of 5 males (Leboo, Winda and Olonyok) appeared in the area, Olpadan did not attempt to approach them. Sitting in the shade, he was watching them and calling several times. None of the males responded. In over an hour, after unsuccessful hunt and joint rest in the bush in 300m, they slowly approached Olpadan, who was not confident in the beginning. It is interesting, that if one of the males leaves coalition for a day or two and then returns to the group, Olpadan meets him aggressively. Three males accepted him peacefully. By the evening of 20 February, two males were still missing – Olarishani from the Tano Bora coalition and Mkali – coalition-mate of Mwanga.

                     



Cheetahs in Courtship: Leboo and Miale. Happy Valentine’s Day!

02/14/2020

Cheetahs’ home rangers overlap, allowing females access to several males and vice versa. To avoid competition, males in coalitions sometimes split, and by that, increase chances for successful mating. Some cheetahs demonstrate a preference of partners for mating. For example, Leboo – a male of the Tano Bora male coalition, not for the first time left the group while courting Miale. Today, after spending with her two days, he finally left the female and rejoined the group.

           



Tano Bora. Shifting positions

02/02/2020

Social animals in the group have a hierarchy with a linear or near linear ranking and with expressed leadership of one of the members. In most cases, the dominance hierarchy is relatively stable and members usually step aside when confronted by the leader. However, if the leader weakened by injury, disease, or senility, the shift may occur and the individual with the highest rank will move downward to the lowest position. In Tano Bora cheetah male coalition, Olpadan was the group leader for 2 years since the formation of the coalition. He started losing his leading position in the beginning of 2019, and completely lost it last March, after the surgery when one of his injured testicles was removed. Since that time, leadership has been shared mostly by Olarishani, Winda and Olonyok. Being the lowest-ranking male in the group, Olpadan often follows the group at the end of the chain and the last to start eating. Interestingly, Olonyok, whom Olpadan had attacked before, demonstrating reverse aggression, is now the one who allows Olpadan to eat next to him and who is engaged with ex-leader in mutual grooming after eating.