Famous cheetah dies in Maasai Mara

Wildlife enthusiasts and stakeholders in the tourism sector are in mourning following the tragic end of the famous and most photographed cheetah named Kisaru aka Nalangu, in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

The female cheetah, whose name loosely translates to ‘rescue’ and ‘crossing over’ is one of the most cherished sightings of the Mara after she defied the odds and raised six cubs through their first year. Typically, cheetahs lose cubs to predators.

Local tour guides took to social media to express their sadness at the death of the cheetah that had been adept in her hunting of gazelles and impala that had kept her brood of six alive and well.

“Today we have devastating news from the Mara, Kisaru is found dead, and hyenas were found eating her body, no one knows the course of her death, but probably killed by lions when she was trying to defend her single remaining cub. So sad, and let's hope her cub will make it to adulthood, though at its age, it is still difficult,” said Karino Lenjirr, a Local Maasai tour guide in the Mara.

A post by Mara Meru Cheetah Project- Maasai Mara researcher Elena Chelysheva indicates that Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) successfully caught Kisaru’s male cub, and he’s being held in an enclosure in the Mara Triangle.

“The KWS luckily caught the cub and is in good shape. At the moment, he’s being held in an enclosure in the Mara Triangle. An important thing to know is that nothing is for sure yet. We are still waiting for the final approval from KWS. The proposed plan from the KWS rangers on the ground is to keep the cub in an enclosure in the Mara until he is a year and a half out,” said Chelysheva.

During that time, the cub would be under watch 24/7 in a fenced area inaccessible to other predators. The plan would be to rehabilitate him to a point where he can hunt on his own and take care of himself.

Chelysheva described Kisaru as a supermom that gave birth to her first litter in August 2019, consisting of 6 cubs and raising all 6 to adulthood until 3 of her daughters split off earlier than the rest and disappeared.

Sources indicate that many wildlife lovers were hoping for the possibility of having Nashipae, another famed female cheetah, adopt the orphaned cub, but the KWS option has been considered appropriate.

“It was a long shot anyways, in a perfect world maybe. I’m just hoping KWS approves this and he has a shot at rehabilitation. Kisaru’s death is still weighing very heavily on me, but it brings me joy to know her last cub has a shot at the life of a wild cheetah, as nature intended,” she added.

According to Maasai Mara National Park Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kisaru is unique as she has an upper coat of fur that is tawny, pale buff or greyish white, with underparts that are paler and whiter. Her black spots are set close together on the pelage with a series of black rings around the last one-third of the tail.

“Cheetah life is highly susceptible to predators like lions that are heavily on the eyesight to target prey. RIP Madam Kisaru,” says Sheldrick in a post on their Facebook page.

According to tour guides, the cheetah, was born in March 2016 and is cherished for being a wonderful mother, like her own mother Amani, who was also the favourite of many wildlife watchers.

“It is exceptional for a female cheetah to manage to raise eight babies in two litters until adulthood. I am very sad,” said East Africa Tour Drivers and Guides Association chairman Felix Migoya.

Migoya said it is common for cheetahs to have large litters, such as Kisaru’s family, but it is more uncommon that they successfully manage to raise all of them to adulthood.

“The Mara is known to have a few of these super mum cheetahs, but the odds are normally against them, and only a few will ultimately make it to adulthood,” he said.