CyberDiary – 14 August 2011

MalaMala Game Reserve - Styx lion cubs

Styx lion cubs by Andrew Batchelor

This past week’s CyberDiary certainly is a bumper edition, so best you go grab yourself a cuppa before settling down for a good read. We’ve had a couple of old favourites show face after a fairly lengthy absence. There are also some new arrivals, some seen and others not yet. The Airstrip male leopard appears to have gotten into a rather nasty scrap. The Fourways lion pride also showed face again, which was cause for welcome relief. The Tamboti female leopard had one kill stolen, but quickly nabbed herself another. We saw the Styx lionesses with their cubs on a large kudu kill which they shared with the Manyelethi male known as “Hip Scar” aka Mr Piggy.

If the mere thought of knowing what was seen when keeps you up at night, then this is how many times we saw each of the following animals during the past week: lion – 15; leopard – 22; elephant – 39; rhino – 24; buffalo – 16; 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.



An old stalwart of the local leopard community returned today. The Bicycle Crossing male finally reappeared after being absent for more than a month. This was the longest that we hadn’t seen him since he started out as a youngster in the region. The story kicks off in the morning with us finding the Tamboti female leopard with a baboon kill in a Mahogany tree close to Rattrays Camp. She then disappeared for the afternoon, and only returned to feed again in the early evening. At about the same time we found the Bicycle Crossing male around West Street bridge. Besides the fact that he was clearly hungry, the large male looked decidedly strong and healthy. He was hunting from the outset, and made at least one unsuccessful attempt at a herd of impala while we were with him. While slowly making his way southwards in search of prey, he stopped occasionally to scent mark as well. We lost him briefly when he made his way down into the reeds after spotting something of interest in the riverbed. Although we relocated him a short while later when he reemerged from the river. At this point he was very close to the Tamboti female – who also happens to be his daughter – and her baboon kill. The wily old male quickly picked up on the scent of the carcass, and after a brief investigation bounded up the tree, chased the Tamboti female off the kill, and promptly consumed the rest of the baboon. The following day there was no sign of either leopard.


MalaMala Game Reserve - Styx lioness

Styx lioness by Andrew Batchelor

Vultures led us to the remains of a kudu bull this morning, and judging from the size of the horns it must have been a very large male. Two of the Styx lionesses were lying nearby with the four cubs. All six looked well fed and content, although the adults weren’t quite as rotund as the youngsters, which means they weren’t alone at the kill. The six then made their way down to the river for a drink before collapsing in the shade. That afternoon one of the Manyelethi males appeared on the scene. “Hip Scar” – as he had become known – has built up a reputation for being able to sniff out a free meal, and as a result is always well fed. Theway he literally waddled up to the group – barely able to keep his stomach from dragging on the ground – led us to believe that he was the culprit that had eaten the majority of the kudu kill. The lions then made a slow return to the water for another drink, before once again collapsing in a heap.


MalaMala Game Reserve - Pangolin

Pangolin by Andrew Batchelor

We saw the Fourways pride again today, which was fantastic. They’ve been a little scarce lately since they recently lost one of their cubs to marauding males. The remaining five looked healthy, albeit a little on the skinny side. They were still looking lean when we found them again at Fourways the following day, but seemed in good spirits despite their apparent hunger. In the early evening they got active and looked ready to hunt. They found a herd of impala and circled around, but unfortunately they were soon spotted in the light of the waxing moon.

No sooner had we left the lion sighting, when we came across a very relaxed pangolin. These scaled mammals are not a common sight at the best of times, but to come across such a relaxed one is even more of a rarity. The young pangolin hung around patiently as the guests snapped away on their cameras. We then watched in fascination as it uncurled itself from its protective ball and went foraging for ants and termites.

We also found two new adult male lions on northern Charleston. They are the same pair that ousted the three Toulon males, not only from the Charleston pride, but from Toulon in general. The lions both sport full black manes and looked to be in excellent condition. The larger of the two males appeared unable to use his back left leg, as he was holding it close to his body. This could be because of a break or severely torn ligaments. Regardless, the males were both very relaxed. With winter climaxing, it’s interesting to see them this far north. The fight for Charleston seems set to kick off any day now.


The sighting of the day was without a doubt that of the oldest Styx lioness and her new cubs. We were watching two females and one male on Campbell Koppies, when three tiny heads suddenly popped out from behind a rock. At first we assumed it was the older Styx cubs, but after double-checking through the binoculars we realised that the cubs we were looking at were in fact much smaller. The old female must have just recently given birth, because she went missing about a week ago. And judging by the shaky movements of the little ones we estimate them to be in the region of a week old. At the moment she has them safely stashed high up on Campbell Koppies in a rocky crevasse. Later that morning the adults left the den site and made their way to the river where they drank and rested in the shade. They were later joined by another of the Manyelethi males.

We spotted an extremely young Nyala kill high up in an Apple-leaf tree, and although only half of the animal remained, there was no sign of a predator in the area. It was only in the afternoon that we eventually came across the well-fed Tamboti female lying nearby. Nyala typically give birth in the riverine bush, and for the first few weeks their young will lie extremely still in the thick vegetation. Giving off very little smell, the young buck don’t move at all, not even when approached. Unfortunately, even with all these precautions in place, this poor youngster still came to untimely end.


Today brought with it much excitement when we came across a Black rhino on Charleston. The large herbivore was very nervous though, so the sighting only lasted a few minutes. Still, it was amazing to witness, especially when you consider that the last time we had a Black rhino sighting was mid-2008. The male ran straight into a thick gulley on central Charleston as soon as we spotted him, so we think this might be where he’s set up territory. If this is in fact the case, it would be excellent news indeed.


MalaMala Game Reserve - Male leopard

2006 Son of the Sparta female leopard by Andrew Batchelor

The Styx sub-adult male made an appearance today. We found him moving south across the boundary, called softly as he went. When he did eventually come across one of the Styx lionesses, she was very hostile towards him. Undeterred, the Styx male remained close by until she relaxed down again. Although the rest of the pride was less than a kilometer away, the two groups didn’t meet up throughout the day.

Later that night we found one of the Manyelethi males with the three young Eyrefield lionesses. The four were heading towards the large herd of buffalo, and clearly intent on hunting. Suddenly one of the young females was overcome with the urge to mate, and needless to say it didn’t take too much to convince the male. Their subsequent shenanigans blew their cover and the buffalo quickly closed ranks, placing the large males on the outside in order to protect the herd. The buffalo immediately took the opportunity to move off, leaving the lions lying in a haze of post-coital bliss.

Leopard dynamics were also very interesting today. In the morning we discovered the 2006 son of the Sparta female moving north towards West Street on the eastern bank. He looked in excellent condition, and walked with confidence, scent marking as he went. Early that afternoon we found the Airstrip male moving away from Wildebeest Crossing. Sporting some serious wounds, the young male had cuts along both back legs, and his top lip was also split down the middle from the base of his nose. His good looks had been ruined in a serious fight, but with whom, was the question on all our lips. Later that evening we saw the Emsagwen male moving south from the causeway. Although he was only 50 meters from the Airstrip male, the two leopards didn’t come into contact with one another. When the Emsagwen male started roaring, the Airstrip male prudently crossed the river and quickly moved away from the area. The end of winter is hotting up with regards to male leopards and their territories, even more so now that the Bicycle Crossing male looks to be moving back.

We also found the Jakkalsdraai female again for the first time in many months. We’re pleased to report that not only is this female in great shape, but she’s also lactating heavily. She led us into a thick gulley where we thought she might have her little one(s) hidden, but unfortunately we lost sight of her when she disappeared into some thickets.

The last sighting of the week was of the Styx pride. When we left them in the morning they were opposite Main Camp. In the evening they got active and moved toward Piccadilly Triangle. Almost certainly on the hunt, the pride was caused to spilt when a herd of elephants arrived in the area. When they regrouped the oldest female was missing. We found her some distance away heading back to her den site. The rest of the pride then decided to follow, and when we left them they were all heading back towards Campbell Koppies.

And that, folks, brings to a close another fantastic week at MalaMala. You can view the rest of the CyberDiary photos on Facebook or Flikr. Click here to download the CyberDiary in PDF format.

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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