Mara Meru Cheetah Project

Dr. Elena Chelysheva, PhD is on a mission to promote the conservation of cheetahs through scientific research as well as establishing the major threats currently faced by this species in the Masai Mara.


The Masai Mara

The cheetah Acinonyx jubatus, once widely distributed across Africa, is now found only in 9% of its historical range. Over the past two decades, global cheetah numbers have declined by 30% so that the current global wild cheetah population is now estimated to be as low as 7,000 animals.

The Kenyan population (around 1500 individuals) is still considered to be one of the strongholds for the species in Africa, though since more than 70% of Kenyan cheetahs live outside of protected areas there is always a high likelihood that they will encounter and kill livestock. As a result, retribution by local pastoralists has been on the rise in recent years. Habitat loss and fragmentation; human encroachment; predator conflict; a decrease in the number of their wild prey species; disease and high cub mortality due to predation and interference by tourist vehicles also decrease cheetah survival rates. By analysing these various threats the team is able to suggest ways in which to best protect this endangered species.

The project has been in operation since 2011 in the Mara Ecosystem, with a particular focus within the Masai Mara National Reserve. Dr Elena enjoys sharing her expertise on the cheetahs in the area and often gives talks on cheetah biology and conservation at our Mara camps for the benefit of our guides and guests. The minimum donation requirement is USD500 for a presentation in camp.

She is also available to accompany guests on cheetah-focused game drives. Please get in touch with us if you are interested in this activity and a rate can be discussed depending on the group size. If two vehicles are required then she will aim to spend an equal amount of time between these. Both of these activities must be booked in advance through your booking agent and please note that there is no guarantee that cheetahs will be found during the drive.

Interested guests can get involved in cheetah research by sending in photos of walking, standing or sitting cheetahs (profiles of both sides are preferable) to together with your name as well as the date and location of the sighting. Photographs of mother cheetahs with their cubs particularly aid in building the Mara cheetah pedigree as they help to reveal parental relationships between individuals, estimate cheetah lifespans, record personal reproductive history and assess survival rate of cubs.