CyberDiary – 10 October 2010

Dudley female leopard's cub by Bruce Archibald

The cheetahs came out of hiding, affording us a total of four magnificent sightings this week. No fewer than three kills were witnessed, and a further four were found. The Charleston lion pride came onto the property midweek, and the Eyrefield lion pride made an appearance at the end of the week. The Styx lion pride parted ways for a while, but then regrouped later in the week to kill a young buffalo. We spotted two porcupines foraging on Charleston, and it’s been a busy time as far as mating goes. Leopards and lions have been keeping themselves duly ‘occupied’ for most of the week.

Picking up where we left off…

At the end of last week’s blog post we left you hanging just as we ‘rounded a termite mound to find the four Styx lionesses with a zebra carcass…’

And we promised to tell you more about the surprise that followed. And remember to view the Wildlife Sightings Maps for a more detailed look at what we saw where this week!

Enjoy!

Sunday 3rd October

When we returned this morning we discovered the four Manyelethi male lions with the Styx females. We heard the roar of this coalition as they passed close by the camp last night. When we picked up their tracks they led straight to the Styx lionesses and what was left of their zebra kill. The males must tucked into it during the night, as they were all fat as ticks.

Although the real surprise for everyone was that there were two pairs of lions mating. And as an interesting aside to the morning’s events, the sub-adult female suddenly took off. When we found her later she was in front of camp, where she spent the entire day. A lover’s spat?

In the afternoon we found the Kikilezi female leopard and her young daughter with the remains of an adult male impala.

Monday 4th October

Today was as dry as the Matshipiri River in terms of lion sightings, but that’s not to say guests were disappointed with what they saw.

Leopard enthusiasts were not disappointed! We spotted no less than eight of these magnificent cats during the course of the day, with three of the sightings boasting kills.

The Ostrich Koppies female leopard was at her den site on Thlebe Rocks, and her two little cubs put on a wonderful show for us as they played an energetic game of tag all over the rocks.

Their strength is growing daily – as is their confidence – and they have now started climbing the trees near their home.

Mom then left the den site and walked for about a kilometer in a north westerly direction, until she eventually arrived at a large, leafless Tamboti tree. She quickly ascended the tree and began feeding on the carcass of an adult male duiker she’d stashed there.

Around the same time we found the Matshipiri female leopard with her now large (but still very dependent) cub close to Wild Dog Rocks open area. It was quite something to watch this mother leading her son through the open area. After a while they came upon the carcass of an adult female duiker that was hidden under a fallen Bush Willow tree.

Further south we found the Bicycle Crossing male leopard fast asleep on West Street Bridge. With the western gate of the bridge still closed, the leopard clearly had no intention of walking through the water to get to the other side. Once we opened the gate he duly woke up and crossed over.

Later during the morning drive we found the Dudley female leopard and her young son close to Rattray’s Camp with an adult female bushbuck kill in a Mahogany tree.

They didn’t have their spoils for long though, because a little while later the Bicycle Crossing male arrived on the scene and did what male leopards would do best – he stole their kill.

For the rest of the day the greedy thief alternately ate and slept, not even contemplating the idea of sharing the kill with the Dudley female or her son (which happens to be his son too).

The Bicycle Crossing male tolerated this young male leopard being in the area, but as soon as he came anywhere near the kill, the older male would let out a nasty hiss and send his young son running for cover. The two went back and forth in this manner all day long, until the Dudley female returned for her cub. The pair then wandered off together.

Tuesday 5th October

Today saw the return of the lions, with all of them in good form. The tracks of several lions led us to three of the Manyelethi males and two Styx lionesses around Campbell Koppies.

The lions – still active – were on their way down to Piccadilly Triangle. Later in the evening drive they broke the quiet of the bush with their roars. The resulting cacophony attracted the attention of the remaining Manyelethi male and a Styx lioness that were still up in the Mlowathi region. They immediately responded by roaring right back.

After completing their communications for the evening, the five headed straight for the Sand River. The three males lined up next to one another and slaked their thirst in the cool water.

Throughout dinner the lions provided a backdrop of bush ‘music’ that was as uniquely African as the food that was served.

Wednesday 6th October

It was a slow start to the morning drive. The sky was overcast and an icy wind was blowing, which immediately put a damper on everyone’s spirits as we were all hoping for an exciting morning of game viewing.

We exercised patience however, and it paid off.

As the day slowly warmed up, so did the sightings. First we found the Kikilezi female leopard’s cub, and shortly thereafter we spotted Mom. She showed slight interest in a herd of kudu, before moving off and calling softly for her cub.

At this point the youngster was showing off his prowess by climbing a large Jackalberry tree. This turned out to be a lucky move indeed, because Mom’s calls hadn’t fallen on deaf ears. Just the wrong ones!

The four Styx lionesses appeared out of nowhere, and noticed the Kikilezi female before she even had a chance to realise that she was no longer alone. Their advantage was short lived however, because as soon as the first lioness moved off road the sound of snapping twigs caught the female leopard’s attention.

After throwing a quick growl in the direction of the lionesses, she darted up a nearby Marula tree. The lions gave cursory chase, but knowing they’d already lost their chance they did it more for show than anything else.

Once the lionesses had moved off again, the mother and son descended from their respective trees and headed for the security and sanctuary of Poliwe.

This was not to be a day without blood for the lions however.

This evening they cornered a juvenile buffalo in the Manyelethi River, and with no resistance from the rest of the herd it proved to be an easy kill.

But this was no leisurely evening meal of ‘breaking bread’ with friends. The carnivores growled, swatted and bit each other in their bid to get as much food as possible off the small carcass.

Next we were presented with an even more amazing sighting when the Bicycle Crossing male leopard caught, killed and treed a sub-adult male duiker.

Not bad for what started out as a dull day.

Thursday 7th October

Not to be outdone by the larger cats, the cheetahs also went out of their way to provide us with some great entertainment. A brief swish of a tail was all we needed to notice the male cheetah which was lying some distance off the road.

After a while it got up and walked northwards in the bush line, towards Wild Dog open area. And just when we thought the sighting couldn’t get any better, we saw the cheetah coalition (four males) sitting on top of a termite mound in the middle of the open area.

To have two cheetah sightings in one day is amazing in itself, but to have them in such close proximity to one another is nothing short of spectacular.

Things hotted up when the single male wandered out into the open and the foursome spotted him. In a flash they charged after him. In took mere seconds for them to move through the open area and into the bush, where all five were then lost.

After searching, we eventually found the four males back in the open area where they were resting up after the chase. In the evening they got active and half-heartedly chased some kudu, before strolling off into the late afternoon sunlight for no apparent reason other than to entertain us.

Friday 8th October

The leopards were also clearly in a mating mood this week.

We found the Emsagwen male leopard with the Campbell Koppies female up at Matshipiri Dam. By evening the pair was mating frequently, although given their lean physiques they were clearly at the end of their mating period.

They showed considerable interest in a passing duiker which subsequently got away. The female steenbok which was a little further down the road was not so lucky however.

While walking along with the Campbell Koppies female in tow, the Emsagwen male suddenly deviated off the road and within seconds had surprised us all by emerging with a steenbok.

The unfortunate buck quickly succumbed to his powerful bite. The Campbell Koppies female then revealed just how hungry she actually was, because after one failed attempt she stole the kill right out from under him and proceeded to feed on it!

This sort of behavior is very unusual as it’s generally the male which will steal from the female. The Campbell Koppies female was desperately thin though, and was obviously willing to face the wrath of the male for even a single mouthful of meat.

While she was feeding the male lay a short distance away. The ravenous female growled viciously as a warning for him to not come any closer. But after the initial warning, he didn’t try to retrieve his kill again.

You can view the rest of week’s photos on Facebook or Flikr.

Until next time,

The MalaMala Ranger Team.

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