CyberDiary – 17 April 2011

MalaMala Game Reserve-Marabou stork

Marabou stork by Andrew Batchelor

It’s been a happy week up here at MalaMala. The Styx and Kruger National Park lion cubs are all growing up nicely. The Tamboti female leopard came of age, and we’re pleased to report that the Styx sub-adults are doing a great job of fending for themselves. We had a lion pair mate continuously throughout the week. And finally, the female cheetah caught herself a young impala. Good times.

If you have a penchant for keeping a tally of things, then this is how many times we saw each of the following animals during the past week: lion – 19; leopard – 19; elephant – 37; rhino – 20; buffalo – 13; wild dog – 0; cheetah – 2.

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

Enjoy!

We saw the the dark maned Manyelethi male and the middle-aged Styx lioness mating everyday during the week. The mating was at very long intervals, and by the end of the week they had all but stopped. Two of the Manyelethi brothers – “Scar Hip” and “Three Tooth” – showed up to visit the couple during the week.

Saturday 10th

We had another caracal sighting this afternoon. This time of a nervous individual at Clarendon Corner.

MalaMala Game Reserve - Serval

Serval by Andrew Batchelor

Tuesday 12th

MalaMala Game Reserve - Mating leopards

Tamboti female and Son of the Dudley female leopards by Andrew Batchelor

Today we had the highlight of the week’s sightings. We were at the airstrip when we heard three different leopards calling around the Sand River. We went to investigate and it wasn’t long before we found the Tamboti female on the western bank of the river. She was being particularly vocal, and roared out her challenge to the two other leopards in the area. The young female then moved north along the western bank and into some terrain where we couldn’t follow. Next we found the Kikilezi female (opposite to the Tamboti female’s position), and she was roaring and scent marking profusely as she moved slowly northwards towards Wildebeest Crossing.

We relocated the Tamboti female on the western bank of the river, and this time she had company in the form of the son of the Dudley female. The leopards were initially a little hostile towards one another, but they eventually got over themselves and came to rest in the shade of a Guarry bush. The Tamboti female then started the all too familiar soft and seductive growl of a female leopard trying to court a prospective beau. This was the first time that we’d seen her trying to mate, so it came as quite a surprise when she made several passes at the son of the Dudley female.

As most young and inexperienced females are wont to do, she ran up to the male, but then instead of staying and presenting herself, she quickly jogged off again. The  scenario repeated itself several times, with the Tamboti female completely unclear as to what to do or expect. When the son of the Dudley female moved out into the open, she followed. And this time she stayed and rubbed herself up against him.

The son of the Dudley female had barely mounted the Tamboti female, when she bolted out from under him. She then showed her intentions a second time, and this time the pair mated successfully. This was a very special sighting, as it was the young Tamboti female’s first attempt at mating. The dismount was equally spectacular as the female lashed out at her unsuspecting love interest, and continued to make several more attempts at him even after he had landed.

With the initiatory mating out the way, the pair then coupled frequently throughout the day and well into the night. By the time we were ready to head back to camp, the son of the Dudley female was so exhausted that he was hissing and snarling at the tireless Tamboti female. With a bit of luck the legacy of the Ngoboswan female will continue, and we’ll have some new leopard cubs to look forward to towards the end of the year.

Wednesday 13th

We spotted the lactating Styx lioness coming out of a drainage line – where we think she has her cubs stashed – in the early evening. She was heading towards the two mating lions when the roar of a male leopard suddenly erupted from inside the drainage line. The female spun on her heels and ran straight towards the source of the noise. We lost her as she went into the thick gulley, and by the time we’d gone around the other way the Styx lioness had disappeared and the leopard had stopped roaring. We searched all the way along the drainage line, but we couldn’t find anything.

Alarm-calling guinea fowl alerted us to the presence of a predator, and on following up we found the Emsagwen male leopard moving towards Mlowathi Dam. It didn’t look like he’d been in a fight, but since he was moving away from the area that the lioness had run into we think that it may well have been him roaring earlier. He then turned west and moved out of the area of the all the lions. We didn’t see the lioness and her cubs again that night.

Thursday 14th

MalaMala-Styx lion cubs

Styx lioness with her four cubs

Today we went to follow up on the four Styx cubs, to see if any of them had been killed by the Emsagwen male last night. The mating lions were located in the exact same spot that we’d left them yesterday, and we also saw one of the other Manyelethi males nearby.

We heard roaring coming from the Mlowathi River and went went to follow up. The Styx lioness – with all four cubs in tow – came out of the river and headed towards the single Manyelethi male. None of the cubs showed any signs of injury, and all were in a playful mood. They met up with the male and came to rest just north of the mating lions. The female then took her brood southwards, and rangers heading towards the sighting came across a female cheetah moving away from the area.

The female cheetah (who is the mother of the sub-adult female) looked to be in excellent condition, but unfortunately the sighting didn’t last long as she was soon lost going into the Thlebe Rocks donga.

Friday 15th

This morning we found the female cheetah close to Matshipiri open area. She was lean and looking to hunt a herd of impala in the open area. The female made a dash for the herd and scattered them into the surrounding bush line. On following up we found her with a young female impala clasped firmly in her jaws. The cheetah dispatched the buck quickly and quietly, and after a short rest began feeding. Fortunately there were no other predators in the vicinity, so the female was able to finish the entire impala in peace. She then moved off to have a drink of water and a well deserved rest.

Saturday 16th

We found the two Styx sub-adults around Clarendon this afternoon. They both looked in good health and appeared to be fairly well fed too. With the pride’s adults all occupied with the Manyelethi males, these two youngsters are going to have to fend for themselves. And from the look of things they’re already doing a great job of this.

The last sighting of the week was of the two Kruger National Park lionesses and their four cubs. We found the two adults fast asleep at Matshipiri Dam in the early afternoon. At dusk they got active and moved south down the river, and just after nightfall they met up with their cubs in the Matshipiri River. The six lions then moved down the river system until they found an open patch of sand, where they came to rest. The cubs are now about 10 months old and in excellent condition. Lets hope the females continue to provide for them, and ensure them a safe passage into adulthood.

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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