CyberDiary – 16 January 2011

Mating rhino by Andrew Batchelor

MalaMala’s wildlife certainly provided us with some entertaining sightings this past week. The Tamboti and Kikilezi female leopards had a stand-off over territory. The Manyelethi lion brothers are back together again, and making their presence known. The two Kruger National Park lionesses and their cubs had an interaction in passing with four unidentified sub-adult lions. However, the sighting of the week was without a doubt when the Matshipiri female leopard and her son had a tug-of-war with an unexpected (and unfortunate) creature. And finally, the week ended on a happy note when Saturday – soggy as it was – arrived with some really good news.

For our diehard (and aspirant) “trainspotters”, this is how many times we saw each of the following animals over the past week: lion – 15; leopard – 15; elephant – 28; rhino – 17; buffalo – 10; wild dog – 0; cheetah – 0.

Don’t forget that you can always refer to the Wildlife Sightings Maps for a more detailed look at what was seen where.

Enjoy!

Sunday 9th

The week started off on an interesting note, when we found the Tamboti and Kikilezi females facing off south of the airstrip. Both leopards are offspring of the late Ngoboswan female, and so have set up home fairly close together. But family doesn’t mean anything when it comes to matters territorial.

The pair squared up against each other, and a lot of hissing and growling – mostly from the Kikilezi female – ensued. The younger and less experienced Tamboti female spent the majority of the confrontation in a submissive role. Although her fiery attitude did show itself occasionally, and the few snarls she did manage to sneak in certainly kept the Kikilezi female from letting her guard down.

But as is most often the case with female leopard stand-offs, it ended without either party raising a paw.

Satisfied that she’d proven her dominance, the Kikilezi female headed east towards the Sand River. She scent marked heavily as she went, no doubt to further drive her point home. The Tamboti female opted to stay in the area, but kept a close eye on her retreating adversary.

Once she was certain that the Kikilezi female had indeed gone, the Tamboti female moved west. She spotted something moving in the grass and went over to investigate further. She began stalking, and within minutes had pounced on an unsuspecting scrub hare. The young leopard quickly dispatched the small creature, and then set about plucking the fur and eating it.

Tuesday 11th

Unidentified sub-adult lions by Andrew Batchelor

Today brought with it another unique sighting when we found the two adult lionesses from the Kruger National Park with their four cubs. Tracks indicated that the females had caught, killed, and eaten a juvenile buffalo during the night. They had then reunited with their cubs once the meal was finished. When we found them they were all fast asleep on the MalaMala Flockfield boundary.

They didn’t move the entire day, affording us ample opportunity to view them lounging in the short grass. The aggressive female has calmed down significantly, and as a result her cubs are also becoming more curious and less afraid of the vehicles.

As the afternoon wore on we spotted four more lions in the vicinity. They were lying a short way along the road, and although they were looking in the direction of the lionesses and their youngsters, they had yet to notice them.

As the sun set, the quartet – consisting of three sub-adult females and one sub-adult male – got active and began walking towards the lion family. When they spotted the two females with their cubs, the four sub-adults first looked shocked and then apprehensive. They stood their ground however, and showed no sign of running away.

The two adult females kept absolutely still, lying low in the grass with their ears back. As the four sub-adults walked closer, we all waited with baited breath. But then they just kept going without so much as a backward glance. The lionesses and their cubs visibly relaxed as soon as the four had left the area. They remained in the same place however, and showed no sign of moving.

We haven’t seen the four sub-adults before, but since the lionesses displayed only marked indifference towards the four younger lions, it’s assumed that they are all from the same pride. Perhaps with the new cubs still finding their feet, the lionesses don’t really want the sub-adults hanging around at the moment.

Wednesday 12th

Today we found the Manyelethi male lions back together. The four brothers spent the entire day resting in the shadow of Campbell Koppies. The Styx lioness that has been mating with the black-nosed male was also present, but her attentions were now on the dark-maned male. As the sun set the three males left their brother with his lady friend and moved off in a westerly direction.

The dark-maned male then began roaring to check if his brothers had really left him behind, and luckily for everyone at the sighting they decided to roar back. All through the night the foursome continued to roar, proudly displaying their dominance to the rest of the world.

Thursday 13th

Matshipiri female leopard and son by Joshua Scheinert

We found the Matshipiri female leopard and her son in Two Toes open area today.  The pair was heading for the Matshipiri River, with the female dragging a kill behind her. This was not your garden variety leopard kill however.

No siree, this was an African rock python.

The snake was about two meters long and freshly caught. So fresh in fact, that when the female dropped it to rest, we noticed that it was still alive. Her young son wanted in on the kill so badly that he could barely contain himself. He even tried to steal it from his mother while she was still dragging it .

This resulted in an amusing tug of war, with a leopard on each end of the snake trying valiantly to pull it away from the other. The young male eventually won, and dragged the kill off into some long grass. Although once he sank his teeth into his hard-earned prize, he quickly came to the conclusion that it wasn’t to his liking and promptly discarded it.

In the meantime the Matshipiri female had given up on the kill and gone to sit in a tree, so in the end the snake wasn’t even eaten. The next morning the two leopards had moved slightly out of the area, but the decapitated snake was still in the same place. Click here to view more images of this amazing sighting.

Friday 14th

Bicycle Crossing male leopard by Andrew Batchelor

The Bicycle Crossing male leopard made his fourth appearance of 2011 today. When we spotted him he was heading for the river from the southern end of the airstrip. He meandered through the long grass, searching for prey as he went. The large male didn’t find anything worth actively hunting, that is until – after trudging through some thick bush – he  finally spotted a large herd of impala at Princess Alice’s pans. He stalked in for a closer look, but the bright moonlight prevented him from getting any closer. He bided his time however, and his patience paid off when some clouds arrived to momentarily cover the moon. The Bicycle Crossing male then seized the opportunity to stalk in a little closer. When the moon reappeared he waited, and then continued inching closer to his prey as soon as it went behind the clouds again.

He eventually found himself within range and was on the verge of pouncing, when the impala were inexplicably spooked. In the subsequent confusion a sub-adult male impala took off and literally ran straight into the leopard. The Bicycle Crossing male barely had to lift his head to catch it, making it by far the easiest meal he’d ever caught.

The leopard overpowered the extremely unfortunate impala with ease, clamping down on its throat so quickly that there wasn’t even a sound from the dying buck. The rest of the herd snorted in alarm, before hurtling off in all different directions. The Bicycle Crossing male released the impala once it was dead, and settled down next to it for a rest. And when we left the area he was still on the ground recovering from his “hard work”.

Saturday 16th

With the day being rain-soaked, it was an unexpected, but pleasant surprise to find two of the Manyelethi male lions around Stwise. The two brothers – black nose and scarface – were sleeping off what looked to be a couple of relatively full bellies. Later on we found the male with scar on his hip with one of the Marthly lionesses in the same area. The pair was mating, and continued to do so throughout the afternoon.

Just before sunset we heard the roars of another male coming from the Mlowathi area. A female then added to the already loud chorus. The four brothers roared back and forth to each other throughout the night and into the early hours of the morning.

We end this week’s CyberDiary on a happy note.

We found the Styx pride of lions lying at Drum Crossing late in the evening. The oldest adult female, the sub-adult female and the sub-adult male were all present. Prior to this we hadn’t seen the young male for almost a month, so it was good to see that he is still alive. He has a large wound on his back and right flank, but aside from that he appears to be in good health.

The middle-aged Styx lioness is most probably the one we heard roaring with the Manyelethi males, which leaves only the pregnant Styx lioness unaccounted for. The last time we saw her she was heavily pregnant, so it highly likely that she has since given birth and we just haven’t found her yet.

With the Styx pride members all accounted for, and the promise of cubs on the way, perhaps this long suffering pride will finally receive the boost it so sorely needs.

And that folks, brings to a close another fantastic week at MalaMala . You can view the rest of the week’s photos on Facebook or Flikr . Click here to download the PDF version of this week’s CyberDiary.

Until next time,

The MalaMala Ranger Team.

PLEASE NOTE: Animals on MalaMala are named after their territories. This means that a) only the predators have been given names and b) we only know the animals according to the names we have given them, as they are based on the territories within MalaMala’s boundaries.

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