The absence of a physical boundary between Mara and Serengeti allows cheetahs, like other species move freely throughout the ecosystem. Some Mara-born cheetahs migrate to Tanzania, and some Tanzanian-born ones come to the Mara. Approximately every 3-4 months we meet new cheetahs. The appearance of new females with offspring is very special. In early January, a female with three half-year-old cubs appeared in the Sopa area of the Reserve. She was recently named Nashula (means “Mix” in Maa) for spending time in both Tanzania and Kenya. It is noteworthy that each time in the Mara, she explores new territories: in mid-February, Nashula was seen leaving for the Serengeti at the Sand river area, and by early March, she had already mastered the Siana conservancy. In January, the cubs were extremely shy, but now they are used to the presence of vehicles, giving us the opportunity to observe them. Such long-distance journeys are crucial for the future resettlement of the offspring. When the mother leaves the cubs and they start living on their own, it will be easier for them to establish their territories/home ranges, since they will be familiar with large areas.




When traveling with small cubs, the female must not only safeguard them, but also feed them regularly. While the cubs are small and largely dependent on milk, the female often leaves them in a secluded place and goes hunting sometimes for up to 6 hours. The younger the cubs, the longer they sleep after breastfeeding. If the cubs wake up from being disturbed by other animals (elephants, warthogs, jackals, etc.) or from a running car engine, they begin to whistle, calling on their mother. When cubs reach 3-4 months of age, they spend more time active and often follow their mother while hunting, staying far behind the female when she gets ready for a chase. This helps them learn hunting technics. After a successful hunt and strangling of prey, the female calls the cubs. At this time, it is very important that there are no visual and communication obstacles between her and the cubs (for example, cars with engines and / or radio on). Before or after calling the cubs, the female usually drags the carcass into the bush so that the vultures would not detect it from a height and food competitors from a far distance. She gives the cubs the opportunity to get enough, and only then she herself begins to eat. The soft tissues of the limbs will be eaten first, and the peritoneum will be opened last, because the strong smell of blood can quickly attract kleptoparasites. If the family is not disturbed by other animals, females with cubs stay with the kill for 4-6 hours, periodically eating it. Neema spent two days in search of suitable prey, making an unsuccessful attempts, and in the end, she got an adult male Thomson’s gazelle. Families with small cubs usually spend the next day after eating in dense bushes away from tourist routes. Even when the cubs are playing, they remain invisible from the outside. This is one of the adaptations to avoid attracting the attention of natural enemies.




This year, Rani reached 13 years – maximum age for cheetah females recorded in the Mara since 2012. At this age, she may conceive, but will not be able to bring up offspring. Rani had successfully raised only one litter in 2016 – one male and two females: Nashipai and Neema. Both females became pregnant multiple times, but could not raise litters for various reasons. The advent of 5-year-old Nashipai in June last year with two cubs has become a long-awaited and important event. Today her sister Neema brought her three almost 3-month-old cubs from Olare-Motorogi conservancy to the exact spot of the Reserve, where her sister Nashipai was with her two cubs 15 days ago, and where Imani was with three cubs the day before yesterday. This is not the first time Imani has shared the area with another family. In 2016, when she was raising her litter of three, she coexisted here with Rani and her daughters Neema and Nashipai. Despite the presence of many other predators in this area, it serves as a safe corridor between the Reserve and the adjacent conservancy, and is regularly used by all cheetahs. When cubs reach 2,5 months, the females begin a long journey through the ecosystem, presenting the cubs with new habitats so that they can subsequently successfully settle in the Mara.




The relationship between cheetahs and warthogs is ambiguous. Female warthogs, called sows, live in groups called sounders, which can contain two or more females with their offspring sometimes of different ages. Subadult males associate in bachelor groups, while adult boars live solitary. Since warthogs have many enemies among predators, they do not miss the chance to assert themselves on cheetahs and chase them away not only from resting places but also from a kill. We observed Nora driven from her fresh kill by the sounder of 4 adult saws, who then ate leftover alongside the jackals. When find resting cheetahs, sows lead piglets towards predators at a close but safe distance, ready to escape at any time. By that introduction of predators to their young, saws teach their offspring how to behave in the presence of enemies. Mature boars and sows without offspring provoke cheetahs, and after a short run attack the cheetah and follow escaping predator for a long distance. When one of the Tano Bora male – Olonyok temporary separated from the group, he was pursued by two adult warthogs, who drove him into a ravine. To date, we have observed only a coalition of five males (Tano Bora) and a female Imani have been able to resist the adult warthogs and not only defend their prey, but also drive the warthogs away. Last week, Imani was able to drive 4 adult warthogs away from a carcass, which she and 3 small cubs ate in the shade of a tree, while Nashipai with her 9-month-old cubs conceded to a group of 2 sows with their piglets.




While wandering through the ecosystem, male cheetahs encounter single males and coalitions, and display more or less peaceful or aggressive behavior. In the wild, there are known cases of coalition-mates killing and feeding on the carcass of the intruder, as, for example, in Phinda Resource Reserve in South Africa. For 9 years of observation in the Mara, we have witnessed numerous cases of collisions of different males (in groups or loners), which lasted from several hours to two days, and fortunately, not a single male was injured. In September 2020, we observed the interaction of a cheetah coalition of two males with a male from the three-member coalition known as the Chai Boys. Both coalitions of young males emerged in the past year: two (Mkali and Mwanga) appeared initially in the Triangle in June, and three Chai Boys in the reserve in October. In December 2019, both coalitions were spotted in the reserve, and in early 2020, the Chai Boys moved to the conservancies (Naboisho, OMC and Ol Kinyei), while Mkali and Mwanga preferred the territory of the reserve, although they also used territories of the neigboring Naboisho and OMC. At the end of September 2020, one of the Chai Boys appeared without his coalition-mates in the reserve, where he encountered a pair of males. It is obvious that the scenario of a meeting of two complete coalitions – a pair and a triplet – would be different. However, in this case, the couple trapped the lonely male, and for many hours until darkness was not giving him the opportunity to get out of the ravine. It remains unclear what had happened to the other two Chai Boys, but it was clear from the behavior of all three males that the couple was not ready to accept a new member, and the one was not ready to join the pair.
Loners find it more difficult to compete for resources with coalitions, especially those as large as Tano Bora, so they either have to travel far to avoid colliding with coalitions, or forge their alliances with unrelated males to survive and succeed.