Mara Cheetahs

Following one of the Objectives of Mara-Meru Cheetah Project, we are building Mara Cheetah Pedigree, and we are able to trace kinship between generations. This work had never been done before and we are gladly sharing our results with the Mara stakeholders and visitors


To date, we have processed over 25,000 images taken in 2001-to date, and identified 123 (49.74) adults. These data changes whenever cubs reach the age of independence and begin a separate life away from their parents.

For 2012-2014 in the Reserve and adjacent areas, we identified 67 (33.34) adult individuals, and revealed kinship (parents/grandparents/littermates) between 57 (28.29) adults.

Thanks to the vast data, of some cheetahs we know not only mothers but also grandmothers! It was very exciting to observe in the same area animals of three generations at a time (see the Plate below)! It was also great to see in 2011 one of the cheetahs we were observing in 2001 – Resy. In 2012, one of her daughters Rosa gave birth and successfully raised one cub Rosetta.

Since 2012-to date, out of total 67 identified adult individuals, observed in the Mara Eosystem, 86.5% (n=58) animals utilized the territory of the Reserve and Triangle (1,510 km2), surrounding Conservancies (1,500 km2), and areas near Tanzanian border, while 13.4% (n=9, out of which 4 males and 5 females) were roaming within different Conservancies and hitherto have not been spotted in the Reserve.

Out of 16 (9.7) adult cheetahs observed in the Triangle, all males have also been spotted in the Reserve and surrounding Conservancies, while 5 out of 6 females have never been spotted outside of Triange on the Kenyan side. The only female who seldom visits Triangle, is the one who was born there.   Despite not being able to compare cheetah numbers/dencities in the Maasai-Mara ecosystem in different years, we can compare densities in the Maasai-Mara National Reserve and Mara Triangle (which was a part of the Reserve before 2001), covering in total 1,510 km2.

Births and Survival rate: From 2007 to beginning of 2013, 141 cubs (born in 49 litters) were photographed. Out of these, 21,3% (n=30) cubs reached independence. In 2013, we added to the list of adults 12(9.3) and in 2014, we added 9(5.4) individuals after they were spotted alone (or in male coalitions) after separation from their mothers. Several adolescents, who had reached independence and separated from their mothers, were not spotted after that.

A detailed behavioral study of radio-collared females in Serengeti, showed that only 36% of cubs leave their lair at 2 months of age, and only 5% reach independence at 18 months (Laurenson, 1994, 1995). The significantly larger numbers of cubs reaching independence in the Mara, could be be attributed to the fact that cubs were pictured when emerged from the den. Therefore, the actual number of newborns is not known.

Out of all the cubs that reached independence since 2008 to the end of 2014 (n=36), 50% (n=18) were met as adults in 2012-2014.

Those cheetahs that have not been spotted are suspected to:

  • have died,
  • live in the remote, inaccessible areas of the Reserve thus, they have not yet been met,
  • move within Mara-Serengeti ecosystem including Serengeti NP and Conservancies, having large home ranges or
  • migrate from the Mara to the adjacent areas

The reasons for migration could be: conflict with other predators, disturbance by humans or limited carrying capacity of the area

In 2013, 41 cub (born in 10 litters) were photographed. Out of them, 75,6% (n=31) died of different causes. In 2014, 38 cubs (born in 9 litters) were photographed. Out of them, 71% (n=27) died of different causes within first 3 months of age.

Cub mortality within the first 2-3 months in the Mara is higher than in Serengeti, where it is 64% (Laurenson, 1994, 1995).

Maximum known age of adults for females: 13 years (2012), 12 years  (2015); for males: 8 years (2014). Our data corresponds to the Serengeti research findings, where maximum longevity for females was 11.8 (13.6) years, and for males 7.8 years (Durant et al 2004). In Serengeti, females who survived to independence lived on average 6.2 years while minimum average male longevity was 2.8 years for those born in the study area and 5.3 years for the immigrants, considering that the male maturity age is approximately 2.5 years (Kelly et al., 1998). Long-term obsevation and photographic materials over the years, will provide essential data for estimation of the average cheetah longevity in the Mara.


Photographic materials help to reveal parental relationship between individuals, estimate cheetah lifespan, record personal reproductive history and assess survival rate of cubs. For some of adult cheetahs we are still looking for their lineage. We are working with more than 30 Mara Lodges and Cams and collecting photo materials from the driver-guides and Mara visitors.

For the better results we need profiles of walking/standing /sitting cheetahs from both sides. We are also looking for pictures taken from 1995-to date of females with cubs (of any age).

E-mail your images of the Mara cheetahs to us to: together with your name and address, so we can tell you what is known about the cheetah you saw. We also acknowledge respondents who help us building Mara Cheetah