CyberDiary – 10 April 2011

MalaMala Game Reserve - Male cheetahs

Four male cheetah coalition by Andrew Batchelor

The cheetahs showed up again after a brief absence. We enjoyed some nice sightings of the Styx cubs. The Mayelethi male lions were seen hanging out with some Eyrefield ladies and the the Kruger National Park lasses, so clearly they have charming side to them that isn’t apparent by just looking. And the Ostrich Koppies and Dudley female leopards both had their kills stolen by some opportunistic hyenas. All in all another great week’s viewing at MalaMala.

If you love keeping count of just about anything, then this is how many times we saw each of the following animals during the past week: lion – 13; leopard – 14; elephant – 37; rhino – 27; buffalo – 19; wild dog – 0; cheetah – 3.

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 3rd

The week kicked off with a great sighting, when we found the four male cheetahs chasing each other through the open area at Clarendon early this morning. We lost sight of them when they eventually moved into the Kruger National Park.

Next we spotted the two Eyrefield lionesses with the single Manyelethi male close to West Street Bridge. The threesome were very agreeable towards one another, and on a few occasions one of the females mated with the male. In the afternoon they moved back towards the river, and by late afternoon the females had ditched their male companion.

Monday 4th

This morning we found the other three Manyelethi males feeding close to Rattrays Camp. By the time we got to them they had nearly finished the kill, and moved off a little while later. The trio roared into the cool morning as they moved north, and a single response was heard coming from deep within the reserve. The Manyelethi males roared again and again, just in case there was any doubt as to who was in charge. Not that easily put off, the other lion came back repeatedly with an answer. And from the sound of things he was getting closer. The three males moved slowly along, when the fourth brother suddenly appeared on the road some distance behind them. He spotted his siblings heading away from him, and broke into a trot to catch up. The three males turned as he approached, and greeted their brother enthusiastically. Once they’d finally caught each other up, they had a drink at a nearby puddle and then promptly fell asleep.

In the late afternoon we tracked the two Styx pride females and their four young cubs to a sticky seep-line, where the scant remains of a large kudu bull was stashed in the tall grass. The well-fed mothers slept off the meal close by, while the young cubs had great fun chewing on the horns of the carcass. One of them even carried off some of the spine like a trophy. The next morning the lions were still in the area, although they had moved slightly off the kill that had since been inundated by vultures. The lionesses moved the cubs into a thick donga for most of the day, but at dusk they came back into the open to play.

Tuesday 5th

MalaMala Game Reserve - Female leopard & cub

Ostrich Koppies female leopard and cub by Andrew Batchelor

Just as we were leaving the Styx lions we bumped into the Ostrich Koppies female leopard. She was moving south towards the Thlebe Rocks donga with a determined stride, and it wasn’t long before she came to an impala carcass that she must have stashed earlier. Unfortunately while she was away, a hyena had stumbled upon the kill and claimed it for himself. The Ostrich Koppies female approached the hyena, but after a brief altercation she backed off again. She lay down in the grass in case he decided to leave, but it soon became apparent that the hyena wasn’t planning on going anywhere. The disgruntled female eventually headed north to where we hope her cub is. We never found out for sure however, as the ground was too soft for us to follow in our vehicles.

Wednesday 6th

We saw the four Manyelethi males lying in the middle of the property, and all four looked extremely well fed. The highlight of the day came when we found the Dudley female leopard and her sub-adult male cub with an impala carcass on Rattrays access road. The impala had been split into three sections and then hung in three different trees. A hyena had stationed itself at the base of one of the trees, where it waited patiently for a free meal. The Dudley female managed to scramble up the sloping trunk of the tree, and just before she fell she made a desperate jump to latch onto the impala’s spine. She missed her mark and the spine and head came tumbling out of the tree. Needless to say the hyena wasted no time in making off with it.

The female followed for a bit, but soon gave up and returned to the second section of the impala. Another hyena showed up under that tree, and low and behold, it did a flying leap and grabbed the second piece of the kill. It ran off with its booty, leaving the two leopards with nothing but a tiny piece of skin. By then the young male had had enough, and descended the tree to chase after the hyena. Following at a cautious pace, the wily youngster snuck up on the thief. Unfortunately a third hyena circling the area spotted him and raised the alarm. The sub-adult leopard shot up the nearest tree, followed closely by the two indignant hyenas. The situation finally diffused, and the two leopards reunited to eat the third and final piece of the impala. They hightailed it out of the area as soon as they’d finished it off, lest any more inopportune incidents befell them.

MalaMala Game Reserve - Male lions

Manyelethi male lions by Andrew Batchelor

We decided to follow up on the four fat Manyelethi males from the day before. It didn’t take us long to find them, and when we did we discovered that they weren’t alone. During the night two of the brothers must have moved off westwards, while the remaining two moved slightly east. They ran straight into the two Kruger National Park lionesses and their four cubs, who had just killed a massive kudu bull. By the time we found them in the early morning there was nothing left of the kudu, and all eight lions were looking extremely well fed. One of the Manyelethi males was still gnawing at the skull of the kudu, and some of the cubs were chewing on the rear end. Finally the two males flopped down on the road in some shade, where they roared once and then promptly fell fast asleep. The small pride finished off the remains of the kudu before joining the Manyelethi boys in the shade.

Saturday 9th

The week ended on a high note when we discovered a young male cheetah all the way out at Cheetah Pan. Even though we’ve had some great sightings of the four male cheetah coalition lately, it was great to finally see a new face on the property. He looked very young, but in great shape nonetheless. Best of all he was very relaxed around the vehicles. Over the last two years we have seen a young male cheetah several times on Flockfield, so it’s possible that this youngster is one and the same.

As the sun started to set the young cheetah got active. Stalking towards some long grass where – unbeknown to us – a duiker was hiding (or so it thought). The cheetah made a dash for it, but the sharp-witted buck heard him coming and sprinted into some heavily wooded thickets. The cheetah then strode confidently through the open area in an easterly direction. By the time we left him the sun was long gone, leaving behind a sky covered in darkness.

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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