Each cheetah has a unique spot pattern that we use to identify individuals. By identifying individuals we can effectively and efficiently monitor cheetahs, allowing us to collect data on the number of cheetahs in the Mara, population demographic, cub survivorship and ranging behaviour.
Whenever we come across a cheetah we try and take profile photos (side-on shots) of both the left and right sides as the spots on each side are different.
We compare photos of cheetahs taken in the field with those in our cheetah database to determine whether the cheetah is a known individual or not. To identify cheetahs we look at the unique spot patterns and use several markings to make sure we correctly identified the cheetah. The main areas we tend to use for identification are:
2. Torso or hind legs
3. Inside of the legs
For example, in the following three photos you can see that Cheetah 1 and Cheetah 2 have the same markings – three black bands on the tail followed by two spots, a line of small spots on her torso and a similar spot pattern on her hind leg (all circled in red). If you look carefully you will notice that the markings of Cheetah 3 are very different.
If the photos do not match those in our cheetah database then we know that we have found a new individual and this individual will be added to our count of cheetahs in the Mara.
How you can help
If you have seen and photographed cheetahs during your time in the Mara, both recently and in the past, and you would like to make a contribution to cheetah research, please fill in a sighting form.