It can be a hard life for a cheetah growing up on the Masai Mara plains.
Cheetahs are low on the food chain and subject to constant harassment by other predators like lions, leopards and hyenas. They can even die at the claws of stronger carnivores.
Female cheetahs have it especially tough, leading a mostly solitary life, hunting and providing for their cubs without the help of the males.
If there’s one animal in the Mara who has the guts it takes to make it on the plains, it’s a female cheetah known to researchers as ‘Nolari’.
“We have known Nolari since she was a cub,” said Femke Broekhuis of the Mara Cheetah Project.
She was born in 2012 to mother Narasha and researchers (and guests of The Safari Collection’s Masai Mara lodgeSala’s Camp) had many wonderful sightings of Narasha teaching Nolari and her brother to hunt Thomson’s gazelle on the plains. Narasha would chase after a younger Thomson’s gazelle calf and tire it out, before releasing it again for the cubs to chase.
Sadly, Narasha was killed by lions earlier this year.
After Nolari and her brother left their mother, the two siblings were seen together for about two months.
“The last time we saw her brother was the day that they had a terrifying encounter with the hyaena, who came in and stole their zebra kill.”
“We have recorded several cases where we suspect that cheetahs lost their cubs to hyaenas,” said Broekhuis. “Hyaenas and lions often get blamed for killing cheetah cubs but a lot of people do not realise that cheetah cubs are also taken by birds of prey, jackals, caracals and also die because of disease and abandonment.”
A few months ago, Nolari had her first litter. She was initially seen with four cubs, and then later found with only two in her care. One of the cubs was reported to have been taken by a martial eagle, and the other’s fate is unknown.
“First time mothers tend to lose their first couple of litters due to inexperience,” said Broekhuis.
It’s the way of the wild in the Masai Mara—only the strongest survive to adulthood.
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