28 May 2010
Weather and land
It’s great with clear mornings and cloudy afternoons followed by rain. The grass plains are turning golden, like the colour of red-oat grass and tall, reaching a height of one-and-a-half meters, which makes it suitable for elephants and buffaloes - big game that cannot be easily attacked by predators. The streams and rivers are in full spate.
Due to the heavy rains, there’s plenty of fodder for the herbivores, which has triggered the rutting season for elephants and the topis. There’s plenty of this going on around Olkiombo. The topis are also gathering on their breeding grounds around the Topi Plain and the Paradise Plains. There’s good game viewing east of Mara Intrepid’s towards the Masai villages where the grass is short due to over grazing by the cattle herds belonging to the Masai. Unfortunately, the predators and the Maasai are not good associates and so the big cats avoid this area. Down south towards the Lookout Hill there are still a lot of zebras and topis.
Lion sightings are still good but the prides are starting to split into small groups. This is because of the food availability. At the moment, the herbivores are migrating to the plains with shorter grass and therefore there is scarcity of prey to pounce on.
The Olkiombo Pride has fragmented into four groups. There is one lioness with cubs on her own and she is avoiding the males who might take the little prey she hunts for her cubs, leaving her and the cubs hungry.
The four sub-adult males are starting to leave the pride to be independent, but there is nothing much to hunt.
The three adult males are strolling alone and being avoided by the females. Soon they might seek other prides to join if they have not been taken up by other males. Young cubs might also suffer and be abandoned by their mothers if the prey situation does not improve.
The Paradise Pride is coming up strongly with six adult males. They have been killing hippos, which means there is enough food to sustain the whole pride.
The Ol-Kejuronkai Pride is still intact with its two males. The pride is made of thirteen lions, lioness and cubs - all well fed and looking healthy. This is one of the places that the browsers and the grazers avoid because the grass is so tall that they cannot see the predators. However there are still a few solitary buffaloes, which make for good hunting.
Leopards’ sightings have been around Olkiombo, along Talek and the Olare-Orok Rivers.
Olive, who is one of the BBC Big Cat Diary film stars, has been seen most of the time between the Mara Explorer and the Mara Intrepid camps, with her two cubs, which are now eleven months old. She has been hunting warthog piglets, impalas and Bohor reedbucks. The Ridge male who is the father of Olive’s male cubs is prowling around Olare-orok and Rhino Ridge.
Big Boy who is the father of Olive’s other three sub-adult cubs - Aya, Binti and Kali is seen around the Talek and Mara River. Big Boy is sharing the territory with his son, Kali. North of Intrepids along Intiakitiak River, there is a female with two cubs who are three months old. We’re looking for names for them. Any suggestions?
For the last four months a female cheetah with a cub of six months is at the Topi Plains. There is a lot of game here and she has been seen teaching her cub to hunt young tummies.
The three brother cheetahs are residing on top of Rhino Ridge hunting warthogs.
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28 May 2010
The Mara plains have been awash with rains in the last couple of months, and the grass is tall over. This long grass affects how cheetahs hunt. As one of the most vulnerable cat (facing extinction due to dwindling habitats, competition for prey from other bigger cats/predators, lack of a big gene pool, climate, etc), cheetahs are fighting a battle for survival.
✓ The word "cheetah" is derived from the Sanskrit word citrakāyaḥ, meaning "variegated body".
✓ The cheetah is the fastest land mammal, reaching up to speeds of 120kph (75 mph).
✓ A cheetah can accelerate from 0 to 110 km/h in 3 seconds, but cannot sustain that speed for very long, otherwise it's brain would heat up excessively and cause permanent brain damage!
✓ Adults weight between 40 - 65 kgs.
✓ They have distinct 'tear marks' running from the corner of the eyes down the sides of the nose to the mouth to ward-off bright sunlight from the eyes and to aid in hunting and seeing long distances.
✓ Their total body length is from 115 to 135 cm (45 to 53 in), while the tail can measure up to 84 cm (33 in) in length. They use their tails for 'steering' - changing course in full flight while hunting.
✓ Like most cats, cheetahs can purr as they inhale, but cannot roar like lions or tigers.
✓ Cheetahs are not adaptive to new habitats, and are an endangered species. They once roamed Africa and Asia, but are now found in small pockets in Africa, and souther western Asia.
✓ The gestation period is 90 - 98 days, and they give bath to a litter of up to nine cabs. Cubs leave their mother between thirteen and twenty months after birth.
✓ The life span is up to twelve years in the wild, and about twenty if in captivity.
✓ They are carnivores, eating small prey like Thomson's gazelles, impala, hares and young wildebeest. They are fussy eaters, and will not eat sickly animals or animals they have not killed themselves (as seen in this footage)!
This famous band is fondly referred to as "the three brothers", and are stars in BBC's Big Cat Diary Series, which is short in the locality of Mara Intrepids. They have caught a young wildebeest, which seems to be injured.
He seems to have picked up an injury, possibly due the hazardous crossing. The three brothers are unsure – they only eat prime!
Finally they leave him alone, and in fact choose to hang out. They discuss his travels from distant lands and the family that has left him at their mercy..
✓ Last but not least, cheetahs are not known to climb trees - but trust us to get rare footage! This happens when grass in the savannah is tall, and they want to watch out for their enemies, who are the other big cats, hyenas, buffalos or elephants.
On a regular game drive, our Assitant Chief Guide at Mara Intrepids, DC (Dixon Chelule) came across this collector's item.
Mother cheetah hiding her cubs in the long grass..
But she is not comfortable. She is wary of attacks from hyenas, lions, leopards or buffalo.
So she opts to go up a tree to scan the horizons
She looks this way
Mommy, I want to see too..Sonny scampers up the tree
I've seen enough, coast is clear..
And here's a video of the whole fam up the tree.
Admin, Lo'mon LeHeritage; Pictures DC (Dixon Chelule) Assitant Chief Guide at Mara Intrepids,
(Lo'mon is Samburu for news; Le Heritage means from Heritage)