The Famous Five Brothers Of Maasai Mara

The Famous Five Brothers Of Maasai Mara

A trip to Kenya is incomplete if you don’t pay a visit to Masai Mara Safari. Located in the southwest of Kenya, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is abundant with wildlife and endless plains. 

The national reserve is famously known for the great wildebeest migration and as home to big cats. The sightings of leopards, lions, and cheetahs are very regular. Cheetahs are well adapted to Maasai Mara’s flat plains and thus can be spotted easily in the reserve. 

Maasai Mara is popular for the five cheetah brothers who hunt together. What is so special about these cheetahs and why are they a highlight in Maasai Mara?  

Before we get into their story, let us take a look at the cheetahs that reside in the national reserves. 

Cheetahs Of Maasai Mara  

Between the lion pride and the majestic leopards, the world’s fastest mammal lives in comfort at Maasai Mara. Although they aren’t as muscular as leopards or as intimidating as lions, cheetahs are speedy as they have been timed at 110 km per hour. 

Maasai Mara National Reserve is one of the best places in the world to spot cheetahs in their natural habitat.  

They are often found perched on top of trees, on a termite mound, and even sometimes on the car bonnet. With their sharp gaze, these predators look for their prey across the savannah. 

The killing method of a cheetah is unique to its species. They stalk close to their prey and seize the right moment to race after it and hunt them down. They grab their prey by the throat and suffocate it till there is no life left.  

As cheetahs are sprinters, they cannot maintain a great pace for too long. Thus, if they haven’t caught their prey within 100 meters or so, they give up the chase. 

four of the five

four of the five

Cheetahs only eat fresh meat and thus, if a hyena or vulture starts eating their food, they back off and start looking for other prey.  

Cheetahs And Coalition 

Cheetahs are solitary hunters by nature unless they are in a group. These groups known as a coalition are usually formed by brothers of the same pack. Rarely do they form a coalition with a different pack of cheetahs. This usually occurs when there is only a lone male in the litter. 

Male cheetahs hunt in groups to take down bigger prey. In contrast to males, female cheetahs hunt alone except for their cubs. 

The hunt begins

The hunt begins

A female cheetah leaves her cubs around the time they turn 20 months old. However, the siblings stay together for months as a group. Once they reach sexual maturity, the female cheetah and male cheetah separate.

The male cheetah can either become a solitary hunter or form a group with other male cheetahs.  

The Five Brothers Of Maasai Mara 

What makes the five brothers of Maasai Mara famous and their group so extraordinary?

The group of five young male cheetahs was first seen in the year 2016 in Maasai Mara. At the time, it was observed that the group was made up of two separate parts. According to Africa Geographic, two males were initially larger while the remaining three were smaller.  

Three out of the five cheetah brothers roaming the Mara reserve

Three out of the five cheetah brothers roaming the Mara reserve

This striking and powerful group was named the ‘Tana Bona’ coalition, meaning ‘The Magnificent Five’ in the local Maa language. Each male from the group has been given a local name as well: 

  1. Olpadan – means the ‘Great Shooter’ in Maa 
  2. Olarishani – means the ‘Judge’ in Maa 
  3. Leboo – means ‘one who is always within the group’ in Maa 
  4. Winda – Means ‘Hunter’ in Kiswahili 
  5. Olonoyok – Means ‘the one who puts efforts to achieve better results’ in Maa 

The extraordinary group has been famous not only in Africa but also garnered attention worldwide. A coalition ensures a bigger territory, access to favorable habitat and prey, sharing responsibilities of patrol and vigilance, and finally, better defense against rivals. 

five brothers hunting together

five brothers hunting together

The five brothers are no exception to these rules and cooperation. 

The Leader 

Within a few months after splitting from his sister, Olpadan grew and established himself as the leader or the dominant male in Tana Bona. He often led the pack and proved to be an excellent hunter. 

By mid- 2017, Olarishani became the co-leader of Tana Bona and both males took turns deciding on the directions to move and how to approach their prey.  

Unfortunately, the leadership of Olpadan did not last long as he suffered from a serious injury imposed on him by his own two teammates. From being ranked the highest, Olpadan came down to the lowest position. Olarishani and Winda stepped in to take the place of Olapadan and became the dominant members.  

In mid-2019, Olpadan was desperately looking to join another coalition. He tried teaming up with a younger pack of two cheetahs but this proved to be of no use.

The cheetah brothers preying on a TopiThe cheetah brothers preying on a Topi

The next day he abandoned his efforts when his three members Leboo, Winda, and Olonoyok appeared. The three members patiently accepted Olpadan and all of them set out to hunt together. 

Olpadan became the last member to join in all the activities of Tana Bona. Interestingly enough, Olonoyok, who was often bullied by Olpadan when he was the leader, became the one who tolerated Olpadan and even groomed him! 

An Extraordinary Coalition 

Still growing strong, the Tana Bona coalition is 4 years olds and their relationship undergoes dynamic changes. The cheetahs are 5 to 5 and a half years old and still walk together in a pack

Sighting the famous five brothers in Maasai Mara can be compared to seeing celebrities. The next time you visit Maasai Mara, make sure you don’t miss out on the Tana Bona brothers! 


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