A 5-cheetah male coalition which roamed over the Masai Marra and which became famous has broken up. The harmony within the group called the “magnificent five” was shattered. They dominated their territory and rivals in the game reserve and were often photographed. A famous photograph is of them traversing a boiling river taken by wildlife photographer Geoffrey Wu. See below:
And here they are on the river bank before crossing:
The head of this male coalition, also called the Tano Bora, was Olpadan a.k.a. “sharpshooter”. The four other cheetahs turned against him. They were 2 sets of male siblings. They ousted him and he apparently wouldn’t relinquish the territory and failed to build up a new partnership. He was found by the photographer with bite wounds all over his body. He saw the other cheetahs running from his body with bloody paws.
The remaining 4 cheetahs are still in a coalition as far as we know. It is said to be the largest coalition of cheetahs despite the loss of their leader. The 4-cheetah coalition is being monitored and has been renamed Nne Bora (“magnificent four”).
The reports don’t tell us why the coalition split like this. All the research that I have read indicates that male coalitions are very solid and they last for the lifetime of the animals. They have a social organisation which is unique among all cats. Whereas females are solitary or accompanied by their dependent offspring, males are either solitary or they live in stable coalitions of normally two or three. That’s why a five-cheetah coalition was rare.
Male cheetah coalitions mate with as many females as possible. The territories of males and females might overlap as in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. In that park, male and female cheetahs have similar sized ranges. Range size varies tremendously depending upon where the cheetahs are. Female cheetahs have huge home ranges up to 780 km² (300 mi²). Certain males are strictly territorial and they defend their home range of less than 20 mi² while others lack a home range (home base) and roam over wider areas.
Cheetahs live in low densities compared to other large African carnivores such as lions and spotted hyenas. For example, on the Serengeti plains, there are nine times as many spotted hyenas as there are cheetahs. There are also four times as many lions as cheetahs. Sometimes cheetah density is as low as 0.8-1.0 per 100 km² but during some seasons densities can reach 40 cheetahs per 100 km².
This is an appropriate time to briefly touch on conservation. The cheetah population has been reduced dramatically. We know that. This has led to inbreeding. Cheetahs struggled to reproduce because they have a low rate of reproductive success due to their inbreeding.
Cheetahs experienced a sharp reduction in population a long time ago which caused inbreeding leading to inbreeding depression with a reduction in overall health and sterility.
A so-called bottleneck event occurred around 100,000 years ago when cheetahs expanded their range in Asia, Africa and Europe. They dispersed over a wide area which restricted breeding. The second bottleneck occurred around 10,000-12,000 years ago. The cheetahs of North America and Europe became extinct leaving the Asian and African populations. Large mammals died out at that time according to National Geographic. The population of cheetahs dwindled which caused extreme inbreeding. The population grew to around one hundred thousand during the 19th century but they lacked genetic diversity which makes them more vulnerable in terms of survival.
Today, in 2022, cheetahs still suffer from a relatively low genetic variability. The scientists know this because when you do a skin graft from one cheetah to another it is accepted by individuals that are supposedly unrelated. Asymmetrical skull development is also a sign of inbreeding. Scientific studies of cheetah skills in museum collections indicate that they are relatively asymmetrical.
Also, cheetahs have a high degree of homozygosity. The higher a population’s homozygosity, the greater its lack genetic diversity or they suffer from genetic impoverishment. The genomes of cheetah normally exceed 90% homozygosity.
Below are some articles on cheetah speed.