CyberDiary – 27 February 2011

MalaMala Game Reserve - Female cheetah

Female cheetah by Matthew Tatham

It was a week of interesting interactions between the cats and large herbivores. The Styx trio was sent scattering by a small herd of bullying elephants. A game of cat and mouse played out between some buffalo and the female cheetah pair. We had a visit by some new male lions, and the Kikilezi female leopard fell asleep mid-hunt.

If numbers make you do the happy dance, then look no further. This is how many times we saw each of the following animals during the past week: lion – 10; leopard – 10; elephant – 27; rhino – 15; buffalo – 12; wild dog – 0; cheetah – 7.

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

Enjoy!

Three unidentified male lions

Friday evening saw the arrival of some new faces to the far eastern parts of Flockfield. We tracked a herd of buffalo to the big open area around the Windmill, and upon further inspection discovered that the large bovines were not alone.

There were also three male lions in the area. They looked big and strong, and all had  very dark manes. We estimated them to be about six years old. At first we thought they were the same males that we’d seen in the area about two weeks earlier, but with bigger physiques and darker manes it soon became apparent that we hadn’t met these guys before.

We’re looking forward to seeing whether or not we’ll be treated to another visit by the trio. The Windmill area certainly seems to be the place for male lions to venture onto the property these days.

Styx pride of lions being chased by elephants

Throughout the week we were fortunate enough to see three members of the Styx pride on numerous occasions. The threesome – adult female and sub-adult male and female – spent the majority of their time hanging around Buffalo Pans. And most sightings just had them lazing around, soaking up the sun.

Friday night was somewhat more entertaining however. At least it was for guests and a small herd of elephants. For the Styx trio, maybe not so much. The whole day we’d heard elephants moving through the bush and trumpeting. A little further south the lions lay fast asleep, oblivious to what was going on around them.

When the sun set the group was rudely awakened by a small herd of elephants passing by. A little too close for comfort it must be noted. One of the sub-adult elephants took inexplicable exception to the lions’ presence, and began trumpeting and motioning towards them. Before long it was chaos, with three more elephants joining in on the act. Between them they sent the lions scurrying for safety.

The commotion was so loud that we heard it from some distance away. The elephants then moved on, leaving the startled trio to regroup. The Styx lions groomed one another for a while, before heading towards West Street Bridge in search of food.

Kikilezi female leopard hunting

MalaMala Game Reserve - Female leopard

Kikilezi female leopard by Matthew Tatham

We were out at the crack of dawn in search of this majestic leopard. The morning turned hot, as we followed up unsuccessfully on various tracks and alarm calls.

The afternoon game drive presented a fresh opportunity to find the elusive cat, and we set out with purpose. After initially futile efforts, we located the Kikilezi female in the Matshipiri open area. She was lying in the long grass, which made it difficult to get a good look at her. Eventually she moved out into the open area, and with the setting sun serving as a picture perfect backdrop, her beauty was put on display for all to behold.

She noticed a herd of impala some distance away, and so commenced a marathon stalk. She managed to cover the first 60m without being noticed, but then a male impala spotted her and ran off snorting indignantly. The Kikilezi female was not yet ready to give up on the idea of a meal however, and went some distance into the bush line.

When she reemerged she’d moved around the herd to the opposite side from where she’d been initially, which put the wind nicely in her favour. She managed to get to within 50m of the unsuspecting impala when – to the complete surprise of everyone watching – she fell asleep.

When she woke up she continued her pursuit of the impala, but unfortunately wasn’t able to get any closer to them. Having thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment she’d inadvertently provided, we left wondering if perhaps she just wasn’t all that hungry.

Cheetah hunting and interaction with buffalo

MalaMala Game Reserve - Buffalo/Cheetah Interaction

Buffalo and cheetah interaction by Brett Ross

In terms of cheetah sightings, this week has been a real goodie. Although we did see the four males on two different occasions, it was the two females – adult and  sub-adult offspring – that were most prevalent.

We saw the two females on six occasions, and each time they were up at Mlowathi Dam. Most times when we found them they appeared interested in herds of impala, running in on this plentiful prey species at every opportunity. Unfortunately their endeavours were all unsuccessful.

On one occasion the mother and daughter pair was actively hunting when we found them. They’d run in on the impala, causing the herd to scatter in all directions. The young female chased some of the buck into the Mlowathi River, where we lost sight of her for about ten minutes. The adult female then lost interest in the hunt, leaving the remaining impala to disappear into the bush.

The younger cheetah was still nowhere to be seen however.

The adult sat in the open area calling to her offspring. And after what seemed like eternity (but was in fact only ten minutes) the youngster reappeared with blood on her face. But there was no sign of a kill, so we have no idea what happened.

On another occasion the two cheetahs were minding their own business, when a small herd of buffalo decided that the twosome was in the way.  Onlookers were treated to a comical scene of two cheetahs scampering around trying to avoid the disgruntled buffalo.

The buffalo obviously weren’t in the slightest bit threatened by the cheetah, and the cheetah could easily have escaped their intimidators, so the cat and mouse game was hardly likely to end tragically. As a result we were all just thoroughly entertained by their antics.

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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