CyberDiary – Cheetahs, Cape hunting dogs and other (13 Dec-2 Jan)

Four male cheetah coalition by Andrew Batchelor

As it turned out the final three categories (cheetahs, Cape hunting dogs and other interesting sightings) didn’t have enough content to warrant their own posts, so we’ve combined them into one. Here are the links for the lion and leopard sightings in case you’d like to refer back.

Enjoy!

Cheetahs

We had our first cheetah sighting of the Christmas period on the 12th, when we spotted the four brothers milling around Wild Dog Rocks open area. They remained there for the rest of the day, but didn’t find anything to hunt (which is a pity as they were looking very lean).

The next cheetah sighting only came on the 28th, when tracks led us to the female and sub-adult female mother and daughter pair. Snorting impala finally gave us their exact location, and when we arrived on the scene we found them with not one, but two, baby impala kills.

The females must have each killed one just before we tracked them down, as they were both still in the process of strangulating their respective prey. The pair had barely begun feeding, when a loud growl erupted from behind our vehicles.

To say that the cheetahs left the area in a hurry would be an understatement.

A few seconds later one of the Styx lionesses came thundering out of the bush line. She made a half-hearted attempt at chasing the cheetahs, but gave up as soon she spotted the two abandoned impala kills.

Luckily the cheetahs were alerted to the impending danger in time to make their escape. The Styx female was unconcerned with their whereabouts however, as she  focused her attention on gathering up her booty and tucking in.

The next morning we found mother and daughter at Mlowathi Dam. And during the course of the following week we saw them on a daily basis, as they moved in and around the Mlowathi River system.

On the 30th they caught and killed a baby impala right in front of us, and then – just in case we missed it the first time – repeated the process again the following day.

We also saw them on New Year’s day, and again on the 2nd, but on neither occasion did they manage to dent the impala population any further.

It really is fantastic to see these magnificent animals on such a regular basis, lets hope the great sightings continue well into the new year!

Cape hunting dogs

We saw the small pack of seven dogs on five different occasions during the Christmas period. Beginning on the night of the 11th, when we spotted them on the new airstrip.  On the morning of the 14th we found the pack at Flockfield Tower, where we watched in fascination as they went on the hunt. Before long they nabbed a baby impala, which they quickly set about devouring. As soon as every member in the pack had had their fair share, they went in search of another hapless impala lamb. It didn’t take them long, and pretty soon they were tucking into their second meal of the day. When they were done eating, the pack sought out the shade of the Acacias surrounding the airstrip to sleep off their full bellies.

The next morning we found the pack lying next to the Sand River, just to the south of the causeway. They were extremely well fed, and not even the rampaging of some nearby “dugga boys” (buffalo) could convince them to move.

The afternoon of the 17th saw the pack’s return into camp. They went to drink from the western bank of the Sand River at Bicycle Crossing, and once finished, jogged down the staff fence line and onto the deck at Room One. Once they’d ascertained that the deck held no tasty morsels, they moved on. From there they went past the pool, and  eventually headed south past Sable Camp.

Our last sighting of the five wild dogs was on the 26th, when we spotted them on the airstrip again. Unfortunately we had to close the sighting when some dark rain clouds came rolling in, causing the light to fade earlier than usual.

We haven’t seen them since the new year, but with the amount of sightings we had in December it probably won’t be long before we see the pack again. Watch this space!

Other interesting sightings.

We were privy to two serval sightings in December. The first one was at night, when we found the solitary cat on the hunt for dinner. And the second time was during the day (and very brief), when the sub-adult female cheetah flushed the harried feline from the long grass.

On the evening of the 2nd of January, we saw two porcupines heading into Main Camp.

The pair of White-backed Night Herons are back at the causeway. And on one auspicious evening we saw three of them, which means that they have successfully managed to raise offspring for the second year running. We also spotted a Black-crowned Night Heron around Mamba Waterhole.

Baby hyena by Andrew Batchelor

The hyena den provided endless hours of entertainment for everyone, as the three young cubs changed many a mindset towards these often frowned upon scavengers. They are so incredibly relaxed, that the sound of our approaching vehicles causes them to come running out of their rocky den. The feisty youngsters then immediately set about trying to chew through the tires. Although, luckily for us,  they haven’t quite mastered the art yet.

Reedbuck were seen on a few occasions. Ironically, this was on Reedbuck Road, close to the Kruger National Park break.

And finally, Mlowathi Dam’s resident leucistic Cape Turtle Dove is still hanging around.

So that’s it folks, the MalaMala festive season in a nutshell. Well three nutshells to be exact. We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it. Things are back to usual now, so this week’s CyberDiary will be posted only slightly later than usual (tomorrow morning). And after that it’s business as usual!

You can view the rest of the week’s photos on Facebook or FlikrClick here to download a PDF version of this update.

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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