The Mara-Meru Cheetah Project is planned for three years with the following goals
For the first year of the research we identified following objectives:
Only field investigations can provide the essential and precise data on current populations in the wild. To date, several studies have been conducted to estimate cheetah numbers in the Mara, thus after evaluating a current cheetah count we will further understand population dynamics in Masai Mara National Reserve. Archive pictures and new photos will be catalogued to provide a pedigree of Mara cheetahs from 2001 to 2012. The first cheetah count in Meru conducted by ACK did not identify individual cheetahs, but estimated numbers and distribution. This study will estimate current cheetah numbers, group content and sex ratio of the population for trend evaluation
Note: During first year of the study behavioral observations will be performed only in Mara. Lions, spotted hyenas and leopards inhabit Mara and Meru. As predator conflict issues are viewed as one of the major threats to cheetah survival, we will analyze interactions between cheetah and other predators and evaluate other potential treats such as: conflict with livestock farmers, accidental snaring and hunting for live trade and skins.
Note: During first year of the study behavioral observations will be performed only in Mara. Families with two or more female cubs and/or two or more male cubs of 4-6 months age will be chosen for long-term observations. Long-term behavioral observation of families will provide valuable information on cheetah survival strategy in the area and unique data on species group living.
It has been shown by numerous studies that tourists' misbehavior and harassment has negative influence on cheetah. In the Meru only three of five protected territories are opened for tourists with low number of visitors and therefore less interference than in any other park where cheetahs occur. With tourist industry development in the area, we will train tour guides and give talks to visitors to encourage them to support preservation and respect for the remaining free-ranging cheetah populations in Kenya.
During the first year of the research the field work will be concentrated mostly in Mara, where cheetah count and detailed behavior observations will be conducted. Two months will be dedicated to Meru cheetah count.
Five/six days a week field work will be conducted from 6.00 to 19.00 and one day per week will be dedicated to computer work (data processing and analysis). Radio contact with local drivers and park authorities will maximize the resources of time and fuel in locating animals. Two days were dedicated to new cheetah search and identification with the tasks to record as many new cheetahs as possible during each day of the study and to observation of their interactions with other species (prey, predators, humans and live stock). Four days will be dedicated to detailed behavioral observations of families.