CyberDiary – 24 April 2011

MalaMala Game Reserve - Styx lioness and cub

Styx lioness and cub by Matthew Tatham

Autumn is upon us, and the days are getting ever so slightly chillier now. But even though most of us aren’t big fans of the cold weather, winter does bring with it the advantage of being able to stay out in the bush for longer. Which in turn means being able to cover more of our vast property. So all things considered, it’s not really a bad deal.

It was another cat intensive week here at MalaMala. One of the Toulon male lions hijacked a female cheetah’s hard-earned kill. The Kikilezi female leopard missed a Steenbok by hair’s breadth. The Kruger National Park youngsters were sent scampering by a scrub hare. And finally, the Styx lionesses bagged themselves a wildebeest.

If numbers are to you what sunshine is to Africa, then this is how many times we saw each of the following animals during the past week: lion – 19; leopard – 21; elephant – 38; rhino – 18; buffalo – 17; 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.


Monday 18th

We were treated to a wonderful sighting today. After tracking them for quite some time, we eventually found one of the Toulon male lions. These guys are becoming more and more confident as they explore the territory further north. But while seeing lions is always exciting, on this occasion it was what transpired later that turned out to be one of the highlights of the week.

Further to the south we found the female cheetah that we used to see in the company of her sub-adult daughter. Patrolling as a single entity again, the female took an interest in some impala. After a series of botched attempts she eventually caught a female impala on the edge of the bush line. She took a brief moment to catch her breath, and then quickly tucked into her meal.

We all wondered how long it would take for the Toulon male to be woken up by all the activity and commotion taking place in the southern parts of Jakkalsdraai open area. The cheetah continued to feed, while nervously scanning the horizon for any sign of potential danger. Not much later we saw the Toulon male sauntering south through the open area. It was only a matter of time before he found the cheetah and her meal, at which stage the unfortunate female would have to forfeit her kill in order to ensure her safety. The event played out as expected, and being the lesser of the two cats, the cheetah barely put up a fight. Before long the Toulon male was happily feeding on the hijacked carcass. All the poor cheetah could do was  look on forlornly (from a safe distance), before moving off into the bush line.

Later that evening we found one of the Manyelethi male lions around Buffalo Bush Dam, an area that seems to be favored by this coalition at the moment. Once the sun had set audio of more lions could be heard coming from the east. The big male roused himself from his slumber and headed in the direction of the other lions. After covering a fair amount of ground, he eventually met up with two of his brothers on the Kruger National Park boundary. Their greeting was very animated, with the brothers jumping at one another, rubbing heads, and generally reassuring themselves that the bond that has carried them this far was still strong.

Today was also the first time in the week that we saw the Styx lioness and her four cubs. We found tracks of a lioness and a number of cubs around the Mlowathi River, and they eventually led us to the female who was moving north on the road. She then turned into the river system, where she was greeted by her cubs. The youngsters were extremely happy to see their Mom, and immediately started suckling. Once they’d had their fill, they returned to the ‘hard work’ of playing. These games, which are all about having as much fun as possible, are also key in honing their skills for the future.

MalaMala Game Reserve - Manyelethi male lion with Styx lioness

Manyelethi male lion with Styx lioness by Matthew Tatham

We saw the Manyelethi male with the scar on his hip with one of the Styx lionesses four times this week, although they were only seen mating on one of those occasions. We also found the Kikilezi female leopard with her cub around Piccadilly Triangle. Having spent the previous night apart, the pair reunited in the morning and set off with a purpose. The female started flanking a herd of impala, but the alert buck spotted her long before she was able to get within striking distance. The leopards continued along their path for a while, but then the youngster veered off on her own. The Kikilezi female decided to sit patiently in some very think vegetation, waiting for an opportunity to present itself. After quite some time she spotted a female Steenbok out the corner of her eye. The wind was in her favour and she was well hidden, making the unsuspecting buck an easy target. The Kikilezi female pounced…and missed….by a claw’s length, leaving the lucky Steenbok to see another sunrise. She then moved into the open and climbed up onto some rocks, where she spent the remainder of the morning lazing in the sun.

Friday 22nd

During the day a large herd of buffalo moved eastwards across the property, and later that evening we found them around Buffalo Bush Dam. What these large bovines didn’t know however, was that the two Kruger National Park lionesses and their four cubs were also in the area. The youngsters were lying some distance from their mothers, when one of them looked up sharply and flattened itself against the ground. A few seconds later the herd emerged from the bush line, sending the young lions scampering for their mothers. One of the females took an interest in the buffalo, but the idea of a hunt soon dissipated. As it turned out, this was not the only scare of the evening for these youngsters. A scrub hare that had made a wrong turn while trying to evade the hundreds of buffalo hooves, exploded out of a bush, landing itself squarely in-between the young lions. They were so taken aback that they went dashing for cover, affording the hare a lucky escape in the process.

Saturday 23rd

The coup de grâce for the week took place this evening, when we found the two Styx lionesses in the open area around Mlowathi Dam. Apart from being a little on the slim side, they looked to be in good condition. The pair moved silently through the open area, until they singled out a male wildebeest that had separated itself from the herd. The lionesses honed in on the unsuspecting antelope, and within a flash they were on its back. It was a perfect sighting, as there was no foliage impeding the view. The hungry females wasted no time in tucking into their meal.

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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