Photo Credit by Femke Broekhuis
BY BOSCO NCHOKO MAASAI MARA, Narok- The cheetah, also known as the hunting leopard is one of Africa´s most enigmatic and sought-after predators and nothing is as breathtaking as sighting one.
Research have shown that the big cat has disappeared from its vast tracts of historic range and in Africa its now known to persist in only 10% of its historic range (IUCN SSC 2007a, b, 2012, in prep.) with Southern and Eastern Africa being the species strongholds.
Mara Cheetah Project, estimate cheetahs population to be rapidly dwindling with less than 7 000 individuals left in the wild globally.
The hunting leopard, which is threaten by extinction is listed under the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources as “vulnerable”.
IUCN roughly places their number at 6,700 globally distributed across 29 subpopulations.
The number of cheetahs is based on appropriate estimates, derived largely from expert assessment and from the extent of known resident cheetah range multiplied by density, however, they constitute the best available information.
The generation time for a cheetah is estimated at 4.9 years by a formula and calculated vide the reproductive lifespan which is the age at the last reproduction, 12 years, tallied against a constant age of first reproduction, which is highly dependant on survivorship and relative fecundity of young vs. old individuals in the population” (IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee 2014), and calculated as the slope of the linear regression between for 221 mammalian species.
Experts gives cheetahs generations as thus approximately 15 years.
Mara Cheetah Project monitors movement of individual cheetahs to collect baseline data and determine the current number of cheetahs in the Greater Mara Ecosystem and determine the health and status of the cheetah population.
In its May- June 2016 Mara Cheetah Project Report, Mara Cheetah Project released on July 4 the data on the predator reveals interesting maneuvers of the individual cheetahs surveyed.
Pregnant Amani gives birth
Amani had spent some time in the Serengeti, Tanzania. She was reportedly seen earlier this year at the Mara where in Olare-Motorogi Conservancy looking heavily pregnant.
She reportedly ’disappeared’ for several months to give birth to a new litter. She was recently sighted in Mara North Conservancy with two cubs.
Malaika’s cubs disperse from their mom
After approximately 23 months old, at end of May Malaika’s cubs have dispersed from their mother.
On average, cheetah cubs tend to leave their mothers when they are between 16-20 months but leaving when cubs are a bit older can be advantageous as the cubs have more time to develop their hunting skills. Malaika was recently spotted looking pregnant.
For one nicknamed Naborr, she has disperse her three cubs at approximately 17 months old and like their mother they have been seen in Naboisho and Ol Kinyei Conservancies.
For the past few weeks they have been sighted together with another young male who we have not yet identified. It is not uncommon for young individuals to team up but it is likely that they will split up again at a later stage.
For one cheetah nicknamed Hodari which means ‘Courageous’ in Swahili, was possibly a bit too courageous when he killed several sheep not so long ago is one of Amani’s sons and Imani’s brother from the same litter.
He dispersed from his mother towards the end of 2013 and after leaving the Maasai Mara National Reserve in 2014 he has frequently been seen in Naboisho and Ol Kinyei Conservancies and more recently in Olare Motorogi Conservancy.
Passed away at six
Nabiki, one of the cheetahs within the ecosystem passed away and Mara Cheetah Project suspects she might have been killed by another predator as hyaenas were seen running around with a cheetah body part.
In September 2015 Mara Cheetah Project collared Nabiki with a tracking device. Nabiki was almost six years old when she died. Whilst Nabiki had several litters, she did not raise any cubs to independence.
Frequent dispersal of cubs
In 2016 alone, there have been close to six dispersal where a total of 15 cubs left their mothers. The different dispersal groups left at different ages, some as young as 12 months only, others as old as 23 months.
The Kenya Wildlife Trust set up the Mara Cheetah Project in order to determine the threats that cheetahs face in the Greater Mara Ecosystem and to develop sustainable solutions to mitigate them.
To achieve this, the Mara Cheetah Project has been using a research-driven conservation approach through a combination of long-term population monitoring, ecological research and community-based conservation.
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