CyberDiary – 3 April 2011

MalaMala Game Reserve - Sunset

African sunset by Andrew Batchelor

Apologies for the CyberDiaries being so late, but it’s been a busy few days up here at MalaMala. Game viewing has been exceptional as always, with lots of cats to keep us entertained. There’s also a very real chance that it will snow in the next while, as it looks like the son of the Matshipiri female leopard is finally ready to cut those frayed apron strings. The Manyeltethi brothers spent the week mating, playing tag, and generally making their presence known. As did the Bicycle Crossing male leopard, who pitched up to remind his offspring who’s boss. The Ostrich Koppies female leopard and her cub made an appearance after a long absence, and the Kikilezi female leopard’s cub tried her hand at hunting Guinea fowl.

If the abacus was your favourite toy as a child, then this is how many times we saw each of the following animals during the past week: lion – 13; leopard – 10; elephant – 32; rhino – 26; buffalo – 14; 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.

Enjoy!

Sunday 27th

The mating pair from last week was still at it when we found them at Senegal Bush, and  continued to mate frequently throughout the day. The two Manyelethi males that have been separated and living in the Matshipiri for the last week were on the airstrip and looking lean. The pair got active just after sunset, roaring into the early night sky and generally claiming the land as their own.

Monday 28th

The next morning we found three of the Manyelethi males (the dark maned male that had been mating, the male with the scar on his nose, and the one with a missing canine) at Mlowathi Dam. We found the fourth brother a short while later at Campbell Koppies, and he was mating with the Styx lioness from the night before. During the night the female had somehow managed to lose one brother and replace him with another. And during that time the missing male had hooked up with his two other missing brothers. Confused? Well suffice it to say, they all met up again during the night and all’s well that ends well.

This morning brought with it another surprise in the form of the Ostrich Koppies female leopard and her cub. We  found them close to Mlowathi Dam, but unfortunately they were heading north and soon crossed over the boundary. The youngster is growing rapidly, and even though he hasn’t had that much exposure to our vehicles lately, he’s still as relaxed as ever. Lets hope we get to see more of him this coming winter.

Tuesday 29th

Today the large herd of buffalo returned to the property. We found them at Clarendon Dam, with three members of the Styx pride hanging around in the distance. It looked like the oldest female with the two sub-adults, but they were lying north of the boundary so it was difficult to say for sure. As we drew closer to the buffalo, we spotted the son of the Matshipiri female stalking a calf close to the edge of the herd. It seems as if this young male is finally striking out on his own, which must be a big relief for his mother. At nearly three years old he’s way too big to be relying on Mom for food, and seriously needs to be pushed out the nest. While he didn’t make any attempt to actually catch the calf, he did manage to stalk in without being noticed so he definitely has the necessary skills to survive as an adult. The Styx members got active after dark and crossed through Clarendon open area in pursuit of the buffalo, who by that stage had gone into the Kruger National Park.

Thursday 31st

MalaMala Game Reserve - Male lions

Manyelethi male lions by Andrew Batchelor

We found the Manyelethi male (the one that was mating three days ago) alone and roaring on the airstrip. He kept at it until he got the response he was looking for from far to his east. He set off at a clip and finally met up with his brother (with the missing canine) who was mating with…wait for it….the same Styx lioness. The males greeted each other and then settled down. The mating pair continued with their business throughout the morning.

In the afternoon the three lions were nowhere to be seen, but we did find the other two Manyelethi males a little way up the road. The four Kruger National Park cubs emerged from a thicket and ambushed the well fed males. The youngsters clambered all over the Manyelethi brothers, who in turn chased the cubs around in a spirited game of tag. Worn out by all the running, the two brothers collapsed in a heap, using the last of their energy reserves to hiss, snarl and bat at the rambunctious cubs. They eventually moved off to find some peace and quiet elsewhere, and once they’d gone the two lionesses came out of the darkness and joined up with their cubs. They all seemed well fed, and spent the warm evening just resting.

Friday 1st

The morning was filled with “April fools” jokes, a lot of laughing, and some excellent game viewing. We found yesterday’s mating pair again, and the Styx lioness was back at Senegal Bush with her four young cubs. The little ones were all in a boisterous mood, and kept themselves busy while Mom slept off her meal.

Alarming-calling Guinea fowl led us to the Kikilezi female leopard and her cub. The fowl were all perched high up in the Marula trees and screaming at the top of their lungs, while the cub worked out which tree to climb in order to maximise her chances of catching one. She went from limb to limb as she tried to get at the elusive birds, but each time she lunged they  managed to fly away. Down one tree and up the next, the determined cub snuck along the bare branches in broad daylight. And then when she thought she was close enough, she’d rush out and try to snatch a Guinea fowl.

The plan never worked, but that didn’t stop her from trying several more times. She eventually conceded defeat however, and thoroughly beaten, descended the tree to take her frustrations out on Mom. A mock wrestling match followed, with the cub running  off, turning, and then charging at full speed. Her mother responded by jumping out of the way at the last second, pawing down her cub and pinning her to the ground. The youngster protested loudly every time she got pinned, and then the whole process would repeat itself. Amazing to watch!

Saturday 2nd

The two Eyrefield lionesses that have been separated from the pride over much of 2010 and 2011 were found in the presence of one of the Manyelethi males this morning. The threesome looked very content around each other, with no aggression being shown at all. We also saw one of the females mating with the male several times throughout the day. This is the first time we’ve seen this type of peaceful interaction between these two forces, which is excellent news for both groups. A peaceful transition of power could benefit the Eyrefield pride immensely, but it remains to be seen if all members will be this compliant. Interesting times lie ahead for the pride, in particular for the males.

Will the adopted Marthly male take over dominance? Will the pride split forever? Or will the Manyelethi males run off the remaining males and reunite all the females? No doubt winter will be the test that answers these questions.

We found the single Styx lioness (that has been mating with the different Manyelethi males over the last two weeks) alone at Piccadilly and in a mood to kill. She had her sights set on a herd of impala and stalked that way. This female has a strange method of hunting. Instead of catching her prey off guard by stalking as close as possible and then pouncing, she runs in from a distance and scatters the herd. She then runs in again and again until the impala are so panicked that one of them makes a mistake, and when they do she right there and ready to pounce.

This evening was was  no different. The lioness ran in and scattered the herd, and then ran at several smaller herds until one young female became so alarmed that she didn’t know which way to turn. In her confusion she succumbed to the lioness’ unorthodox, yet extremely impressive, approach to hunting.

This morning we found the son of the Dudley female leopard scent marking and roaring around the airstrip. Since the Bicycle Crossing male leopard has shifted south, this young upstart has been laying claim to the territory around the airstrip and West Street Bridge. He performed all morning, before eventually finding a shady tree to fall asleep under. In the evening we heard a male leopard roaring just south of the airstrip. We followed up expecting to find the son of the Dudley female again, and were surprised to find the Bicycle Crossing male instead. Striding confidently along Skukuza Road, the large male sent out a message to any young males in the area to let them know that he was still in charge. A clear warning to his offspring, but whether it will be heard and obeyed remains to be seen.

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 will be.

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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