CyberDiary – 15 May 2011

MalaMala Game Reserve - Manyelethi male lions

Manyelethi male lions by Matthew Tatham

The CyberDiaries may well have been late this week, but you can rest assured they’ll prove well worth the wait. It’s an action-packed update, filled with all the requisite big players. The Styx lionesses’ four cubs mistook the dominant Manyelethi males for a jungle gym. The sub-adult Styx female enjoyed a brief interlude, which may well mean she’ll no longer have to spend her days looking over her shoulder. The leopards were out in force, including one we haven’t seen in a while. All in all, a juicy read.

If numbers are your thing, then this is how many times we saw each of the following animals during the past week: lion – 14; leopard – 15; elephant – 38; rhino – 30; buffalo – 14; wild dog – 1; cheetah – 0.

Our resident cartologist is laid up with a severe sinusitis attack, so the Wildlife Sightings Maps will only be updated with the latest sightings on Friday. Apologies for the delay!

Enjoy!

Sunday – Monday

MalaMala Game Reserve - Styx pride lion cubs

Styx pride lion cubs by Matthew Tatham

This morning we found the two Styx lionesses and their four cubs lying in the Mlowathi River. The family all looked well fed and didn’t move for most of the day. Three of the Manyelethi males had fallen asleep under the shade of a nearby Guarry thicket, and we later found the fourth brother at Campbell Koppies. In the afternoon the three males met up with the lionesses and their fast growing youngsters. The interaction proved particularly entertaining, as it didn’t take the cubs long to lose their inhibitions around the males and start climbing all over them, biting their tails and then scampering off to avoid being swatted. The lone male roared into the night in the hope that his brothers would respond, but they were far too busy playing with their offspring and didn’t bother answering his call.

We went to follow up on Bushbuck alarm calls coming from the Mwana Nonachemen donga, and found the Ostrich Koppies female leopard lying high up in a Jackalberry tree. Upon descending the tree she began calling as she moved east in the donga, and a short while later her cub came bounding out of a thicket. After an enthusiastic greeting and some rough and tumble time, the mother and daughter pair continued on their eastward journey. The female had a determined stride about her, and as much as her cub wanted to play she was resolute about not stopping. Apparently there would be time enough for fun later. Both leopards turned south out of the donga, taking us on a merry trip through some extremely thick bush. We eventually lost them in the darkness, which was unfortunate as it seemed as if they were just about to find their stashed kill.

Tuesday

We found the Styx pride all together this morning. The oldest female and the sub-adult had come south and joined up with the two lionesses and their four cubs. We spotted one of the Manyelethi males close by, and feared for the safety of the young female who would most certainly be in danger if he saw her. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when he came to rest before noticing the pride. The Styx lionesses took advantage of the cool morning and got active. Moving in the direction of Campbell Koppies, they soon spotted a herd of impala. The four females wasted no time in flanking the herd, effectively trapping the unsuspecting buck in the process. When they charged in it came as no surprise when the all too familiar sounds of death filled the air.

Having bagged the male of the herd, they quickly set about devouring the carcass. The sounds of the struggle carried to the Manyelethi male, who immediately charged over, sending the young female running for cover. Some of the females tried to feed alongside the male, but he was having none of it and eventually they all gave up and left him to enjoy the hijacked kill alone. Once the greedy male had eaten his fill, he abandoned the impala carcass and set his sights on the sub-adult lioness.

Instead of running, she opted to hang around instead, causing the normally aggressive male to approach with interest. The two lions soon came to together, hesitantly at first, but then the male took control of the situation and mounted the inexperienced female with intent.

Finally.

Let’s hope her being accepted by one of the Manyelethi males will mean his brothers will follow suit. It would be a welcome and desperately needed break for the Styx pride if this were the case.

MalaMala Game Reserve - KNP lioness' cub

Kruger National Park lioness' cub by Matthew Tatham

We tracked the two Kruger National Park lionesses and their four cubs to the Mathlabatini donga, where the well fed family was enjoying a good snooze. On leaving the sighting we spotted the Emsagwen male strolling down the road away from the area where the lions were sleeping. The large leopard, who was out patrolling his enormous territory, turned and headed towards Emsagwen waterhole. We then noticed the son of the Matshipiri female lying a short way off in the Matshipiri River. He poked his head up out of the grass in time to see the Emsagwen male heading his way. As the dominant leopard neared his position the son of the Matshipiri female let out a very soft and pitiful squeak. It was obviously his way of letting the big male know he was there and asking that he not hurt him. The Emsagwen male took no notice of the younger male (who was in fact his son) and continued to the waterhole for a drink. The son of the Matshipiri female then left the safety of the reeds and approached his father. Endeavouring to keep low and submissive, he emitted a series of soft moaning sounds whenever the Emsagwen male looked his way. The young male eventually slunk off, leaving Dad to his own devices.

Wednesday

In the late morning we found a large young male leopard on the track to Beaumont’s Hippo Pools. Aside from missing a piece of his right nostril – which indicated that he had been in a fight recently – he looked to be in great condition. We later identified him as the other (less common) son of the Dudley female. We haven’t seen him in many months, but from the look of things he is trying to take over the deceased Tjellahanga male’s territory on Charleston. We watched as he scent marked profusely along the roads, making his intentions load and clear. With winter on our doorstep, the fight for supremacy in the south is going to heat up. Watch this space.

Friday

MalaMala Game Reserve - Cape hunting dogs

Cape hunting dogs by Ryan Driemeyer

We saw three Wild dogs on the morning drive. They looked to have come in from the north, and were moving steadily south and east when we found them. It looked like they were all males, which probably means they are disperser dogs from a larger pack. When a pack gets too big, single sex members will break away in small groups and roam around until they find another disperser group of the opposite sex to start a new pack with. The sighting didn’t last too long as we lost the dogs going into some thick bush.

We also came across the Kikilezi female leopard crossing west through Piccadilly Triangle this morning. Lean and clearly on the lookout for food, she stalked in on a herd of impala only to be spotted by the vigilant male who immediately raised the alarm. In the evening we found her eyeing out a bachelor herd of impala around Campbell Koppies, and from the look of her still sleek physique she hadn’t had any luck during the day. Stalking through the long grass on a night when the moon was almost full wasn’t an option for the leopard, so instead she jogged ahead of the rams and lay in ambush. Unfortunately the impala moved off in the opposite direction, leaving the hungry female with no option but take a wide loop around the buck. Coming to rest right in their path, she hunkered down and waited in absolute silence. The leopard was ready to spring the instant one of the impala drew close enough, but they were in no rush to get to her.

An hour later her patience paid off.

The impala moved closer and in a slivery flash the Kikilezi female pounced. She caught one of the males totally off guard, and quickly sunk her canines into his jugular. The impala didn’t even make a sound as the agile leopard wrestled him to the ground with relative ease. The female released her grip as soon the buck had died, and began feeding almost immediately. The next morning we set out early to see if we could her again, hoping that she had managed to tree her kill during the night, but expecting to find that it had been stolen by hyenas. A female leopard will struggle to tree an adult male impala, as it is way too heavy for the comparatively slight predator. This sighting proved to be a case in point, as we arrived at the kill site to find nothing but some blood stained grass and a whole lot of hyena tracks.

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.

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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