OSIDAI – MIALE’S SON IS BACK IN THE MARA

12/21/2023

Osidai (Handsome in Maa) is a 7-year-old male who got his name due to his strength, durability and outstanding survival skills. The harsh events of his life have left marks on his face in the form of scratches and gray skin around the eyes. Therefore, his name can be interpreted as “Outstanding.” After reaching the age of independence, young cheetahs disperse into the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. Females tend to live within the home range of their mothers, while males migrate over long distances. This is an effective mechanism for avoiding inbreeding. Wherein some cheetahs remain in the Mara, others go to Tanzania. Osidai was the only one out of 5 Miale’s cubs, born in 2016, that she raised to independence. Soon after separating from his mother, the young male found a partner – Olchorre, who had lost his brother 3 weeks before. The new union lasted less than 5 months – Olchorre appeared alone, and Miale’s son gone missing. In August 2022, he appeared in the Reserve after 4.5 years, which became the longest absence of a cheetah that we recorded in the Mara! Unfortunately, at that time he was affected by Sarcoptic mange – a highly contagious mite infection caused by Sarcoptes scabiei burrowing under the skin of domestic and wild mammals. It took him a year to begin to recover, and now, in December 2023, he looks healthy and strong again, fully living up to its name. Osidai is in reproductive age and we hope he will contribute to the gene pool of the Mara cheetahs.



KISARU AND HER SON

12/10/2023

In the wild, it is impossible to estimate the rate of survival of cub females versus cub males’ because the sex of the cubs at birth is unknown. Some families are spotted first when cubs are about 4 months old, and could already have lost littermates, as the first three months are known to be the most critical for cheetah cub survival. Our long-term observations in the Mara suggest that cub survival rate of males is higher that of females. Majority of the litters at the first encounter, contained cubs of both sexes. Out of 43 litters, for which the time of cubs’ dispersal was known, in 81% litters (n=35) was at least one cub male. In 2022, out of 6 litters raised to independence, 5 litters contained at least one male, and out of 15 cubs, 60% were males (n=9). With age, cub become more active, and spend more time playing with each other. For the single cub, the only partner is the mother. In the beginning of July 2023, Kisaru gave birth to four cubs at the Mbokishi Conservancy. Within 1,5 months, she lost half of a litter, and started travelling through the conservancies with two remaining cubs – a male and a female. In the last week of November, she appeared on the eastern border of the Reserve with a single cub – a son. For a week, she was trying to proceed deeper into the reserve, but did not manage to cross the high and rough waters of the Talek river.
After hunting, cheetahs usually drag a kill into the nearest bushes and by that, keep it safe for hours. Depending on the number and age of the cubs, the family is feeding on the adult Thomson gazelle or Impala from one to 6 hours. When hunting in the open area, cheetahs risk losing a kill to kleptoparasites. Flying vultures attract jackals and hyenas. By follow cheetahs, jackals sometimes distract their hunts. While single cheetahs and male coalitions sometimes share the part of a kill with jackals, cheetah mothers rarely tolerate these small predators and chase them. The cubs assert themselves, driving the jackals away from their prey. Females with a single cub, are feeding in turns, sharing vigilance.
Lions and hyenas are known to be the major enemies of cheetahs, and mothers do their best to protect their offspring and teach survival strategies. By seeing approaching hyena or a lion, cheetah mother would rush towards it and lead away from her cubs. Recently, we observed how Kirasu ran towards a big lioness who had spotted cheetahs from far and was running towards them. Fortunately, on the way to the cheetah family, the lioness saw a family of Warthogs, caught one and lost interest in cheetahs. However, Kisaru had reached the lioness, followed and slapped her from the back. Her son was watching the scene from over 200 meters and ran towards the mother, when the action was over. The lioness focused on protecting her prey from the hyenas, and the cheetah family escaped safely.



HAPPY INTERNATIONAL CHEETAH DAY!

12/04/2023

On this International Cheetah Day, we joyfully reflect on our dedicated efforts towards ensuring the thriving existence these magnificent creatures in the Maasai Mara. Our commitment extends beyond words to impactful actions that contribute to the well-being of cheetahs and their habitats.
Cheetah Health and Well-being: Our team has been actively involved in providing crucial care to sick cheetahs, ensuring their swift recovery. Additionally, we champion anti-harassment initiatives, safeguarding cheetahs during their hunting activities and fostering an environment where they can thrive without unnecessary disturbances.
Collaboration with the Park Authorities: In a harmonious partnership with the Cheetah Monitoring and Protection Team, we stand united in our mission to protect mothers with cubs. Through joint efforts, we monitor and safeguard these vulnerable families, creating a safe haven for cheetahs to nurture the next generation.
Conservation Impact: Our collective work echoes through the Maasai Mara, where the vibrancy of cheetahs continues to resonate. Through meticulous documentation, data analysis, and on-the-ground efforts, we contribute to the overall conservation landscape, ensuring a sustainable and flourishing future for these iconic big cats.
As we celebrate International Cheetah Day, let’s recommit to our shared vision – a Mara, where cheetahs roam freely, mothers raise their cubs without fear, and the spirit of conservation propels us towards a future where these incredible creatures thrive. Together, we make a difference for the cheetahs!



THE FATE OF THE COALITION: MILELE AND MBILI

08/20/2023

Males in a coalition are able to hold territory, hunt big game, and share the responsibility of surveying environment for danger, and in general live longer than singletons. In addition, if one of the members of the coalition loses the ability to hunt, his teammates share the prey with him, thereby helping the male to recover. The loss of one partner from a pair is fraught for the remaining male, but cheetahs adapt to new conditions for survival.
Milele (forever) and Mbili (two) and their sister Kuahidi were born in July 2016 to a female Kiraposhe. When the cubs were 16 months old, the mother left them, and after another 4 months, the sister left her brothers. Since then, the brothers have been together, parting for a short time while courting different females.
December 19, 2022 Milele was alone, desperately calling for his brother, who returned the next day. At this time, we discovered that Milele was lame. The temporary lameness did not prevent the coalition from moving around different conservancies, avoiding enemies, and even courting females. On December 21 and 22, 2022, Milele mated with Kisaru on a par with Mbili and participated in the hunt to the best of his ability. He finally recovered by the end of May 2023. But it was at this time that a sad event happened – Milele lost his brother. The brothers were last seen together on May 15 when they successfully hunted a young zebra together at the border of the MNC and Lemek conservancies. After that, they disappeared for 16 days, and on May 31, Milele appeared alone in Lemek. He behaved calmly, did not call his brother and successfully hunted. It seemed from his behavior that he was no longer looking for his brother and accepted the need to survive alone. Interestingly, usually single males do not hunt large game, however, if the male lived in a coalition, then after losing a partner, he will hunt large ungulates for some time. So did Milele, who killed a large male bushbuck.
Seven years is a critical age for cheetahs, especially for males, whose average life expectancy in the wild is 3 years. It is to be hoped that the varied survival experience gained during his life in the coalition will help Milele stay in good shape and contribute multiple times to the gene pool of the Mara cheetah population.



MORE CHEETAHS in the MARA TRIANGLE – SONS of SILIGI

07/07/2023

Cheetahs born and raised in the Serengeti and on the border with the Maasai Mara, after reaching the age of independence, begin to travel in search of convenient habitats and in doing so visit places that they once visited with their mother. Furthermore, females not only visit the Mara for a short time, but even give birth to cubs here. This happened with Siligi, the sister of Olpadan (a former member of the Tano Bora coalition). Siligi became famous in 2019 by being the first female in the Maasai Mara with a documented litter of 7 cubs. So far, she has given birth three times in the Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR), but to date has raised one litter of 3 males out of 5 born. These cubs were born in the MMNR in 2021 and brought up in Serengeti. After reaching the age of independence, sons, unlike daughters, go quite far from the territories and home ranges of their mothers, which is a natural limiter of inbreeding (close-breeding). While some juveniles are settling into the vast areas of Tanzania and we are losing track of their fate, some adolescents, mostly males, are showing up in the Mara. Yesterday a very significant event happened both for the cheetah population of the Maasai Mara and for the Mara Triangle – one of the most successful conservancies in cheetah conservation. In the morning, 3 new cheetahs were spotted by rangers and guides. By the fact that they were not afraid of cars, it was clear that they had been to the Mara before. Three healthy 3-year-old males – the sons of Siligi intensively mastered new territories: they were sniffing trees, bushes, hills and points on the roads, and marked those, where they found marks left by other cheetahs. So far, 8 adult cheetahs have been seen in the Mara Triangle: 2 females (Risasi, born in the reserve), Naado (a female from Tanzania) and 5 males: 3 sons of Siligi (born in the reserve), Mpaka (a Tanzanian male), as well as Risasi’s brothers – Ruka and Rafiki. Oloti, a Tanzanian male, is currently in the reserve. While the new males are getting to know the new areas that Ruka and Rafiki’s coalition is using, the latter may move away to avoid a territorial conflict that can be dangerous for all of its members. It will be very interesting to follow further events and this new coalition in the Mara.