BUFFALO SPRINGS NATIONAL RESERVE, Kenya, March 18 (Swara)—Wildlife conservationists reported two cheetahs killed in collisions with vehicles near the Chokaa Gate of Buffalo Springs National Reserve in Samburu County, northern Kenya, between March 15 and 17.

The cheetahs killed were two of the cubs of the well-known cheetah mother frequently seen throughout much of 2023, successfully raising four cubs into adulthood (past 12 months) in Samburu National Reserve during the prolonged drought period. The mother raised two cubs from a previous litter to adulthood in 2022 before emerging with the current litter of four in January 2023.

On Friday, March 15, it was reported to staff at Action For Cheetahs in Kenya (ACK) that one cub was hit by a truck just before dawn on the A2 highway. ACK speculated that the mother seemed to be taking her cubs across the road in the direction of Shaba Reserve when the cub was killed. The mother and three remaining cubs were seen near the highway later in the morning, calling for their lost sibling.

On Sunday, March 17, ACK received another call that a second cheetah was killed near the exact location, apparently while the family was crossing back in the direction of Buffalo Springs.

The mother and two remaining cubs were seen near the road late Sunday morning. ACK, Buffalo Springs, and Kenya Wildlife Service rangers are monitoring the cheetahs until they have adequate time to mourn their loss. Cheetahs can continue calling and searching for a lost family member (or coalition partners) for two to three days before deciding to move on.

© James Lekadaa – Samburu National Reserve naturalist with Elephant Bedroom Camp

Speculations on how and why these mortalities happened may, in part, be due to normal cheetah behaviour in what has become a challenging environment. Mothers take their mature cubs far from their home range as they prepare to start another litter. To do this, a mother can face barriers such as roads, pipelines, rail, power installations, human settlements, fences and changing land use. Other factors in this case may have been increased lions and hyenas being pushed out of traditional settlement and grazing areas since the end of the drought period, prompting the return of herders and livestock. The mother may have decided that releasing her cubs in this area was not a good idea or may not allow the potential for her to find a new mate for her next litter.

ACK began developing its programmes in 2001 and is affiliated with the Cheetah Conservation Fund and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

“Chasing this family away from the road is not an option because we do not want them to be frightened and then separated from each other as a consequence,” said Mary Wykstra, Founder and Director of ACK. “The two remaining cubs may struggle to support themselves without the teamwork of their lost siblings and/or their mother. This location around Buffalo Springs/Samburu/Shaba has been a significant blackspot for wildlife mortality since the road has improved, so vehicles travel at higher speeds.

“There has also been increased human settlement along the road. Various solutions, such as prominent signage highlighting wildlife crossings, speed bumps, motion sensor lighting or noisemakers are being reviewed by several organisations (including ACK) in collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service and the Kenya Highway Authority. While the loss of any wildlife in this way is unacceptable, cheetahs killed along Kenya’s road network presents a particularly significant as loss to the cheetah population in Kenya, and on the African continent,” added Wykstra.

ACK studies note that Kenya is unique in having three African cheetah subspecies. These subspecies are key to the species’ survival across the continent and beyond. The organisation presented research on Kenya’s cheetah population at a Global Cheetah Summit in Ethiopia in January this year.

Kenya’s cheetah population is less than 1,400, primarily outside protected national parks and reserve areas. Approximately 80 per cent of Kenya’s cheetahs live on public and community land. As these incidents show, lack of connectivity and wildlife-friendly corridors can be deadly hazards, which are increasingly threatening populations that need the connectivity of extensive areas to maintain their survival. Between 2008 and 2023, ACK documented 27 cheetahs killed in vehicle collisions along the Mombasa-Nairobi Road, several killed in park and conservancy roads, and five along roads leading between Isiolo and Seriolipi.

Learn more at: https://www.actionforcheetahs.org/