News from the Field

Our long-term research started with a reconnaissance in November 2011 and actual field work in October 2012.

We are working in the field most of the week, covering vast areas and driving over long distances. It takes time (some days over 3 hours) to find a cheetah especially in the areas with no roads, no tour vehicles and with very tall grass. Once the cheetah is spotted, we take photos of it from different sides for identification and then we check with our field catalogue its name and individual number.beh obs

We stay with cheetah until sunset, continuously recording data on its behavior and following it at a safe distance.

We also collect photo materials for identification and for building Mara Cheetah Pedigree.

We have been collecting photographs since 2001 for building Mara Cheetah Pedigree. Photographic materials help to assess population trends over the years, reveal parental relationship between individuals, estimate cheetah lifespan, record personal reproductive history and assess survival rate of cubs.  This work had never been done before and we are happy to share our results.

To date, over 25,000 images taken in the Mara since 2001 have been processed and 123 (49.74) adult individuals identified. These data changes whenever cubs reach the age of independence and begin a separate life away from their parents. Out of 67 (33.34) adult individuals identifyed in 2012-2014, kinship (parents/grandparents/littermates) between 57 (28.29) adults revealed.

We are working with many photographers, rangers, tour-guides, visitors and researchers who share with us their photographs taken in different years. As feedback, we provide our respondents with available information about cheetahs met (date of birth, kinship, personal history). In addition, photographic materials provide information on lifespan of individuals and the cub survival rate.

pedigree-1

Fragment of  Mara Cheetah Pedigree

For details on cheetah and their stories please follow us up at: https://www.facebook.com/MaraMeruCheetahProjectDrElenaChelysheva

We conduct workshops for the County Government rangers and driver-guides, teaching them cheetah identification techniques, giving talks with the PowerPoint presentations on ecology and behavior of cheetahs in general, and Mara cheetahs in particular.

rangers

Workshop  with the PowerPoint presentation for Narok County Council Rangers. Octoner 2013

g5 

Workshop and exercise on cheetah identification for driver/guides

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Interviewing local communities around Maasai Mara National Reserve

Cooperation with Mara guides

Research findings have been presented to Managers and Driver-guides of 40 Mara Camps and Lodges.  Workshops have been conducted where tour guides from 26 different Mara based facilities have been trained on Cheetah identification techniques, ecology and behavior. The research team has permanent support from these facilities, whose driver/guides and tourists provide information on cheetah sightings and photographic materials for the purpose of building the Mara Cheetah Pedigree and monitoring of the respective cheetahs. In return, a Cheetah Identification Catalogue with photo profiles of those cheetahs which are commonly seen in the areas where the guides conduct their game drives, is provided. Each Catalogue contains valuable information on each cheetah including year of birth (if known), kinship with other cheetahs (i.e. Mother, Sister, Brother etc.) and the personal life/reproductive history.

In several Camps and Lodges, the most dedicated guides were provided with compact water- and shock-proof digital  photo cameras with built-in GPS for cheetah monotoring. Also, rangers teams  were supplied with  such cameras. The photographic data is being collected once in 2-3 weeks. All activities and supplies were received with a lot of appreciation and enthusiasm.

In order to encourage Mara driver/guides to participate in wildlife conservation, Project produced Certificates of Participation, signed by the Kenya Wildlife Service and Narok County Government officials. Criteria for the selection of a guide is based on active support of the Project by providing information on cheetah sightings for cheetah monitoring, photographs for building Mara Cheetah Pedigree and adherence to the set Park Rules and Regulations.

certificate-d

Tira-1

Certificate and nominees from different Lodges and Camps. Jonathan Scott rejoices for his friend Mara guide

The research team interviews local communities around the Reserve detecting their attitudes to wildlife in general and in particular carnivores. Materials we collect help us working on educational materials for local villages and schools with the emphasis on wildlife conservation. i3

The Project team performs the following activities:

1) Scientific work:

*          counting cheetahs on the basis of individual identification; collecting photographic materials for identification; building database and Pedigree of Mara cheetahs since 2001;

*          monitoring of certain individuals through behavioral observations of interactions of cheetahs with visitors, herders/livestock, prey and other carnivores in different environmental conditions;

2) Work with Local Authorities and Facilities:

*          cooperation with rangers and driver-guides on sightings of sick individuals and providing assistance to KWS vet team and county government rangers in taking care of recovering individuals;

*          conducting workshops for the County Government and conservancies’ rangers and driver-guides: teaching them cheetah identification techniques and giving talks with the PowerPoint presentations on ecology and behavior of cheetahs in general and Mara cheetahs in particular; providing them with Cheetah Albums with ID photos and information about these cheetahs;

3) Work with local communities:

*          Visiting local communities and interviewing local stakeholders;

*          provide textbooks to the Mara schools; working on educational materials for local villages and schools on wildlife conservation; conduct Mara cleaning events; *          environmental and conservation education – giving talks with the Powerpoint presentations to driver-guides, managers, guests and students in the Mara; conduct conservation lessons at local schools.

4) Other activities:

*          Attending Mara Stakeholders meetings, annual Tourism Forums, International Conferences and giving talks with a presentation on the ongoing research;

*          Visiting Universities, organizations and facilities and giving talks on cheetah conservation;

*          Organising and implementing the Mara Cleaning event.

For the Meru Area the Project is collecting photographic materials and building cheetah ID database.

Field work started in October, 2012 was carried out during 2690 hours hours, which included: scouting for cheetahs, cheetah behaviour observations, visiting various camps and lodges and teaching driver-guides cheetah identification techniques, visits to a local communities.

Animal monitoring: 1026 hours of behavioral observation conducted on 59 individuals. This data included: behavior in the presence of tourists, different types of predators, livestock, livestock herders and different types of prey.

To learn more about our recent activities and updates on cheetahs please visit us on:

https://www.facebook.com/MaraMeruCheetahProjectDrElenaChelysheva

A1