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In Fond Remembrance of the “Third Brother”

March 09, 2011

Last week the oldest of Lewa’s famous “Three Brothers” died after a series of skirmishes with a nearby pride of lions. The veterinary team tried their best to treat this elderly cheetah but after several days he finally succumbed to his wounds.

The three brothers are possibly the most famous family of cheetahs in the world. They have ruled the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy's grounds for over 13 years and were featured in a "Life" documentary narrated by David Attenborough where they were lauded for their amazing cooperation and teamwork to bring down challenging kills, such as adult ostrich and the common eland (the largest antelope in East Africa).

Because of cheetahs’ slight build, they usually hunt small grazers like gazelle and impalas. However, because of their extraordinary teamwork, the Three Brothers were able to take down far more impressive prizes. On most occasions the team would coordinate to surround their prey, then one brother would leap and land on top of the target while the other two would get underneath and topple animals three times their size. This cooperation allowed the cheetah family to eat large meals with minimal effort, leaving them to spend the rest of their time basking in the sun and posing for tourist photos. The Brothers appeared to enjoy their celebrity status, posing for pictures and relishing the attention of visitors and scientists alike.

While two brothers remain, it is unlikely that they will continue to hunt in the same manner. Their technique was reliant on the power of three and our research and veterinary teams will be keeping close watch on the remaining members of this family as they shift their hunting techniques to focus on safer prey. There is no doubt that the eldest brother will be sorely missed by everyone here at Lewa, but most of all by his hunting team who will never be the same.