Leopard and lion sightings abounded in a week that was filled with cats from beginning to end. The Styx pride reunited to get better acquainted with the new cubs. The Manyelethi male lions continue to make their presence known, with the dark maned male mating with one of the Styx lionesses. The Toulon male lions were spotted a long way from their old territory, and the Kikilezi female leopard’s cub caught a duck all by herself!
For our “trainspotters”, this is how many times we saw each of the following animals during the past week: lion – 14; leopard – 12; elephant – 25; rhino – 28; buffalo – 16; 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.
This morning kicked off with a bang when we found the Kikilezi female and her cub playing in Piccadilly. Next we saw the dark maned Manyelethi male at Mlowathi Dam, and shortly thereafter the lactating Styx lioness started roaring close by. The two lions then met up and roared in unison long into the cool morning.
As wonderful as it was to enjoy such magnificent sightings in quick succession, the most interesting one came later on when we found the son of the Dudley female leopard with a baboon kill just south of Sable Camp. He was perched high up in a Marula tree, with three hyenas sitting hopefully at its base. His biggest threat however, came in the form of the slightly built Tamboti female leopard. She was lying in a nearby Jackal-berry tree, and the young temptress seemed more interested in the young male than his food. Worried that the Tamboti female was going to make a play for his meal, he immediately responded (in a typically male fashion) by snarling when she approached.
The female stared longingly into the tree, as she rubbed herself on the nearby bushes and rolled in the grass at the base of the Marula tree. From the look of things she was coming into heat for the first time and wanting to mate. For leopards, mating appears to be halfway between an instinctive and learnt. She clearly understood that she needed the male to mate, but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it reeling him in. She scent marked intently and rolled around in the grass in a seductive manner, but nothing would lure the son of the Dudley female out of the tree. The Tamboti female finally gave up and moved off, the male watched her for a while before returning to the task at hand. The next morning he was still at the kill, but the female had since moved a long way south.
Today brought with it another surprise. We found two of the three Toulon male lions lounging in the shade of a termite mound at Clarendon Dam. They’d followed some buffalo into the area, but appeared to have given up the hunt as the herd disappeared over the next ridge line. The Toulon males get their name from the southernmost property in the Sabi Sand, so seeing them this far north came as quite a shock. But with the males having lost dominance over both Toulon and the Charleston pride, it makes sense that they’d go exploring again. The two brothers had ventured deep into the Manyelethi males’ territory however, and if they keep this up they are certainly going to be in for a fight.
The next morning we found the two males back at the Windmill, which is a little more their territory. That night roaring came from the Kruger National Park. It could have been their third brother, but the two decided to err on the side of caution and keep quiet. Instead they just shuffled about uneasily and listened intently to the roaring.
We did see the Styx female with her cubs yesterday, but today she was joined by three of the four remaining Styx pride members. The middle adult lioness with the missing top canine was the only one not present at the family reunion. The cubs’ mother was quite relaxed with pride, and happy for all of them – including the sub-adult male – to investigate the youngsters. The lions spent the day together, and by nightfall were all fast asleep. After that we saw the cubs another three times during the week. Although they are only just approaching the three month mark, they are already very relaxed around the vehicle. They have a bright future ahead of them, let’s just hope the Manyelethi males can keep control of the area with all the male lion activity taking place at the moment.
The cub of the Kikilezi female leopard has been spending more and more time on her own lately, and at 15 months old is quickly heading towards independence. Her mother still feeds her, but the intervals of separation are getting longer. The cub is also growing steadily more curious. When we found her at Piccadilly she was busily hunting some impala in the open area. Not having much experience, the aspirant huntress decided to go after the buck in broad daylight with all of two inches of grass for cover. The impala were completely underwhelmed by her presence, and didn’t even bother to snort.
Finding a new challenge, the young leopard then tried her luck at hunting the White-faced ducks in the pans. She crept stealthily through the long grass surrounding the pans, before making an all out dash for the alarmed birds. One of the young adults was too slow, and the leopard managed to catch it just before take off. She quickly dispatched her prey and began plucking the feathers, before tucking into her hard-earned meal. Life is looking bright for this rising star, all she needs to do is make it through the treacherous few years as a sub-adult.
This evening we found the missing Styx lioness mating with the dark maned Manyelethi male. We’d hoped that her almost month long mating marathon in January would result in a pregnancy, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. The pair continued to mate for the rest of the week.
This morning we welcomed a new member to the MalaMala family. We’d just left the mating lions when we came across a herd of wildebeest. One of the females was in labour, and we could just make out the baby’s tiny hooves protruding from its mother. She struggled a bit with contractions and had to rest several times, but half an hour later she produced a healthy young calf. The alert calf – which was born at exactly 8:30 – immediately began struggling to its feet. At 8:37 it stood for the very first time, and by 8:42 was making shaky laps around the herd that had gathered to welcome it to the world. By 4:30 pm it was sprinting around the open area with its mother struggling to keep up.
Friday and Saturday proved to be the most interesting in terms of lions dynamics. To start off with we found two more of the Manyelethi males in the southern reaches of the Matshipiri River, an area they seldom venture into. The two adult Eyrefield lionesses that have been separated from the pride were lying close by, although neither party was aware of the other. It was almost as if the extremely well-fed males appeared out of thin air, and we wondered if they hadn’t perhaps come from the east (as far east, even, as the Kruger National Park). Maybe they were the ones that had gotten the Toulon males so agitated with their roaring the other night? We’ll never know for sure though, but by the end of the week one of the Toulon males was still missing.
On Saturday the fourth Manyelethi male – the one with the scar on his left hip – joined the mating pair. He spent the day lounging around and watching his brother mate.
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.