It was yet another week of animal shenanigans here at MalaMala. The four male cheetahs gave us some exceptional sightings, including a minor run-in with herd of buffalo. The pregnant Styx lioness finally gave birth – although we have yet to find her den site – so at this point we don’t know how many cubs she has. Three of the Manyelethi males met their match when a hippo sent them packing at Clarendon Dam. And on Saturday three leopards orchestrated an impromptu, but unsuccessful, attack on some impala.
If you’re fiscally inclined, this is how many times we saw each of the following animals over the past week: lion – 13; leopard – 13; elephant – 27; rhino – 17; buffalo – 10; wild dog – 0; cheetah – 6.
Don’t forget that you can always refer to the Wildlife Sightings Maps for a more detailed look at what was seen where.
We saw the four male cheetahs on four different days this week, and it was high drama for most of that time. The fun began on Sunday morning, when we spotted two of them on the Kruger National Park break. By the afternoon all four had regrouped at Clarendon.
On Tuesday morning the males were still at Clarendon, and when we found them again in the evening they were being chased around by a large herd of buffalo. The four brothers managed to avoid injury, but ended up scattered around the open area in the process. The drama continued the next morning, when we found three of them resting on a small termite mound calling out softly to their missing sibling.
We saw him a little while later, sauntering along towards the dam. But after a quick drink he moved south, away from his brothers. That afternoon we found the trio at the dam wall, while the fourth male was seen hanging around where the other three had been in the morning. He searched everywhere for his brothers, but for some reason it didn’t occur to him to go and check if they were at the dam.
The lone male then headed south out of the open area, while his brothers got active and moved east – into the exact area that their brother had been not twenty minutes earlier. It seemed (for the time being anyway) that they were destined to keep missing one another.
We had no more sightings of the cheetahs during the following two days, but tracks indicated that they still hadn’t found each other. We finally saw the coalition again on Saturday, and by then they’d thankfully reunited. When we found them they were lying contentedly on Clarendon Dam wall.
We saw the two lionesses with the four cubs three times this week. The females have relaxed down a lot since we first started seeing them on MalaMala, and we’re pleased to say their cubs have followed suit.
The three sightings we had of the small pride were scattered all over the property. The first was on Monday when we found them close to the northern boundary. The next morning we tracked them down to the middle of the property around the Matshipiri River, and later that evening the females spotted some impala and started to hunt. This was the first time that we’d witnessed them actively hunting. They were remarkably unperturbed by the presence of our vehicles, but unfortunately they didn’t manage to catch anything.
On Saturday we found them sleeping in Buffalo Pans. They were looking very well fed, and didn’t even budge when we approached to view them. Hopefully this small family will continue to hang around, so that we can watch the cubs grow up.
We spotted the Manyelethi male with the scar on his hip mating with the middle-aged Styx lioness for most of Tuesday. This female has been seen mating almost daily for the entire month of January, which is incredibly unusual. Mating periods between lions usually last about three or four days, so let’s hope for her sake she falls pregnant soon. Because at this rate, she’ll wear herself out before Valentine’s day.
Wednesday brought with it some exciting news, when we discovered that the pregnant Styx lioness had finally given birth. We found her in the open and nowhere near any potential den site, so at this point we still don’t know where she’s hidden the little ones. As the sun set, she headed towards the Manyelethi male and Styx lioness. As she drew closer to the mating pair one of the other Manyelethi males in the area tried to intercept her, but she cleverly snuck off before the aggressive lion could catch her.
This is very exciting news for the Styx pride and for us. Watch this space, because it won’t be long before she reveals her den site to us.
By Thursday the “lovebirds” were still mating. We also found the other three Manyelethi males at Clarendon, following the large herd of buffalo. Two of the males looked to be extremely well fed, but the dark maned male was lean, and keeping a sharp eye on the herd’s movements.
The day heated up and the Manyelethi trio headed to the dam to quench their thirst. They were met by a cantankerous hippo who didn’t mind them drinking, but made it clear that lounging about on the dam wall wasn’t acceptable. The bull hippo casually climbed out of the dam in order to further drive home his point. The lions took one look at his formidable bulk and quickly conceded. After cursory drink they moved off. That evening the three males got active, and followed the buffalo herd into the Kruger National Park.
On Friday everyone was surprised to find the three Manyelethi males lying in the Mlowathi, instead of the mating lions we were expecting. They must have done an about turn during the night, and walked clear across the property just to fall asleep in the cool morning. That afternoon the mating pair showed up, and for the first time in ages all four bothers were reunited.
As the evening drew to a close, we heard a lioness roaring further south down the river system. The males replied, and we went in search of the “mystery woman”. It wasn’t long before we came upon the lactating Styx lioness. With her head down and step quick, she was clearly on a mission.
We followed in the hope that she would lead us to her den site. Initially things looked promising, but she quickly changed course when she spotted some impala. And given that she was nothing but skin and bones, who could blame her?
The hungry lioness flanked the impala and made several attempts on different herds. Eventually her hard work paid off, and she managed to confuse a baby impala that had become separated from its herd. Not knowing which way to run, the young buck quickly became a sitting duck.
The female saw her opportunity and closed in, within seconds she’d clasped her jaws firmly around the baby impala’s throat. She tucked right in, but unfortunately we couldn’t wait for her to finish as it was already late and we had to return to camp.
These solitary cats remained elusive until Saturday morning, when we found three in the same place.
The Kikilezi female was the first to be found on this cold drizzly morning, when tracks led us right to her. Her cub was close behind, and they were both staring intently at a herd of impala. As the pair snuck off in the direction of the herd, a sneeze came from behind the log they’d been lying on.
The Emsagwen male popped his head up. He’d been lying in the thick grass the whole time, and nobody had seen him.
The Kikilezi female left her youngster and circled around the impala herd. A completely unplanned ambush then unfolded right in front of us. All three leopards had managed to spread themselves around the herd of impala, and each was stalking closer.
The Emsagwen male was the first to strike. He ran in and almost caught an adult female, but she dodged left at the crucial moment and only just managed to avoid his outstretched paw.
The three leopards then dispersed. The cub followed her father, while the Kikilezi female went off by herself. After a while the cub left the male and rejoined her mother, and the pair moved into the Ngoboswan Donga. The Emsagwen male moved west along its southern bank.
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.