Like mother, like daughter. Naretoi, a female cheetah and daughter of Kakenya, is a relatively new addition to the Maasai Mara’s array of characters but like her mother before her, she has become a fan favorite. Born in 2014, Naretoi grew up under the care of her mother, living alongside her two sisters and single brother. Together, they grew into adulthood and Naretoi left the Mara Triangle area, venturing forth to explore the wilds of the neighboring Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. In 2017, Naretoi returned to the Mara Triangle, where she followed in the footsteps of her mother, giving birth to two male cubs.

This was Naretoi’s first litter, life on the African plains can be a harsh and unforgiving place for young cubs. Naretoi’s life seemed to sadly echo her mother’s, as Kakenya also had cubs the same year but they were unfortunately lost. Sadly like Kakenya, in May of 2018, one of Naretoi’s young cubs went missing, presumed dead. Naretoi searched desperately for her missing son but alas, he was gone. With only one remaining cub, Naretoi continued to persevere.

It is through a journey of an animal like Naretoi that the beauty and harshness of the natural world come together, showcasing an interesting paradox of emotions. Naretoi clearly felt something akin to heartbreak at the loss of her son, as she wandered the places they had frequented together, searching desperately for him. It was tragic to see, as Naretoi called mournfully, her cry going unheard by the cub she was anxious to find. Yet, despite this tragedy, it reminds us of the emotional bonds animals can form, that loss and emotion are not purely reserved for humans. Naretoi clearly loved her cub and his disappearance brought her pain, characterizing her behavior as more complex than basic primal instinct, even if her way of thinking is obviously very different than our own.

Naretoi seems destined to follow in the pawprints of Kakenya, being a successful hunter of the wild that nonetheless has the spectre of tragedy in her life. The loss of her cub was hard on her but there is still hope. Naretoi’s second cub remains and is growing into a successful hunter in his own right under his mother’s watchful eye. Together, they continue to wander the landscape, exploring and teaching each other new things every day. Their love remains, perhaps stronger than ever. The African wild is harsh but it is also beautiful and through their interactions, one can feel the spark of hope.