I like to think that for many years, around campfires and in the cosy comforts of living rooms of homes around the world, the story of the Tano Bora, will be told and retold.
Tano Bora. I first saw them in 2018.
We were on a family vacation, on our first trip to Kenya and when we saw them, late one afternoon, they were resting under an acacia tree near a few bushes. We spent the rest of the day with them, watching them do absolutely nothing noteworthy. They lounged about, stretched, marked their territory, snoozed…well, they did what cats do.
I can’t say that I took any memorable images. It was a time when my enthusiasm with the camera far outweighed any competence with it.
However, it felt special.
Being in such close proximity to not one, but five cheetahs is an experience to savour. It was only after I returned and started following the news from the wild a little more closely that I heard more about this bunch and realized how special they were. Pretty soon, I was keeping track of their adventures, keenly waiting to read about them, as if keeping tabs on the exploits of that school friend who had become famous.
Cheetahs usually form a coalition, but its usually a group of two or at the most, three and usually, between brothers. A coalition of five was extremely unusual.
These were also not five siblings. Three of them were siblings but the other two, joined them later.
It was some time late in 2015 that this coalition was first observed and for the next six plus years, they totally bossed over the Mara.
Tano Bora. The Magnificent Five.
They were special. They had this unmistakable aura.
They didn’t just walk around. They swaggered into the scene. Play the signature tune of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in your mind and you will get an idea of what it meant to watch this bunch move, nay, swagger through the grass and the open meadows.
They acted as if they owned the earth.
They redefined the meaning of the word – bravado.
Doesn't the background score of " The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' suggest itself ? :)
Any hunt is high energy and captivating to watch but the hunts of the Tano Bora…man, they were at a different level. A heady mix of chutzpah and cool. Stealth and stalking were for the ordinary cats. I have seen them brazenly walk into an open landscape, clearly signaling their intent to all and sundry.
Stealth ? Nah...that's for the sissies. This is advertising intent. And a " I dare you to escape" challenge
They stroll in. Everyone else stand around and wonder...who'll be the prey today ?
This bunch was a mean hunting machine.
Cheetahs lose a lot of their kills to other larger predators. They try to get a good bite before that happens, all the while keeping an eye out for the others.
They became the toast of the town. Everyone would want to see them. Spend time with them. Watch them hunt. They made it to numerous award winning images, to many films.
We spent a tense late afternoon watching them approach a female cheetah with a cub ( you can see it peeping out of the grass ). Males usually will kill the cub. They spared this one. The theory is that one of them might have been the father.
They were the prima donnas of the Mara.
However, nothing lasts and it’s a rule that is even more brutally true in the wild. The break up of the coalition, when it came, happened swiftly.
There was an undeclared ‘leader’ of the pack. In one of the hunts, he had a narrow escape and apparently after that he started lagging a little bit in the subsequent hunts. It was either because of this, or because he started straying from the group or a combination of both, but one fine day, the leader was driven away from the group.
The exile attempted to come back a few times and was rather violently rebuffed and once even required medical assistance from the vet teams. However, he refused to move away from same territory, and it was just a matter of time before one of the violent encounters with his former mates ended with a finality.
The Tano Bora had come down to four members.
And then four reduced to three.
Purely by accident. One of the four got badly injured in an encounter with a crocodile and didn’t survive.
At this moment, the remaining three are going strong. Their hunts are still efficient. And they still rule the rolling landscape.
However, the Tano Bora…boy,they were something else.
The remaining three are still a powerful coalition. But...