Today, Nora finally successfully hunted and ate well. Therefore, when a hyena appeared, Nora calmly left and sat nearby, while the hyena was finishing her prey.
Cheetahs share habitat with different species including competitors for the space and resources – lions, hyenas and baboons. Each of these species is potential kleptoparasite and does not miss the chance to snatch the cheetah’s prey, despite the abundance of the prey in the area. Therefore, the latter has to be extra vigilant before the hunt, so as not to waste energy in vain and lose its prey. Today, 8-year-old Nora had to wait for long hours for the troop of baboons of over 50 individuals retire at a great distance, to begin the hunt. Unfortunately, as soon as she caught the female Thomson’s gazelle, the first lioness appeared from the bushes on the opposite side of the field. Not having enough time to strangle the antelope, Nora ran away to a safe her life. The gazelle had driven the attention of a lioness away from the fleeing cheetah, but the moment it was killed, 3 other lionesses rushed from the bushes, trying to take possession of the prey. Since the kill was small, the hunter tried to protect it, but after a short fight, hungry lionesses tore the carcass, so that each female dragged away her own piece. Until the end of the day, Nora watched the lions from the hill from a safe distance.
Males in a coalition usually share large and middle size prey. However, if the prey is small, the hunter does not share it with his coalitionmates. For example, three days ago, when Tano Bora males were walking in the field in a line searching for prey, the last one in a chain – Olonyok spotted in the tall grass a Thomson’s gazelle fawn and caught it. He ate it alone, fiercely defending his prey. Any attempt by any coalition member to approach him was met with growling or blows of paws. The ex-leader of the group – Olpadan was the one who was following Olonyok and patiently waiting for the opportunity to snatch at least a piece. He responded to Olonyok’s growling by immediately turning his back to Olonyok that is, demonstrating a posture of submission. On another occasion, when Winda caught an adult Impala male, all the members of the group ate it together.
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.
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.