CyberDiary – 21 August 2011

MalaMala Game Reserve - Charleston lion cubs

Charleston lion cubs by Andrew Batchelor

The week got off to a worrying start when we discovered two of the Styx cubs missing. We found the Matshipiri and Tamboti female leopards each on their own bushbuck kills. The pushy Tamboti female then coerced a hungry Airstrip male into mating with her. Love was clearly in the air because the youngest Eyrefield lioness and the black-nosed Manyelethi male were also at it. We ended off the week with two fantastic sightings, one of the young female cheetah and other of the Charleston pride with their new babies.

If you’re sitting with your black book and pen at the ready, then this is how many times we saw each of the following animals during the past week: lion – 15; leopard – 11; elephant – 26; rhino – 19; buffalo – 13; wild dog – 0; cheetah – 1.

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

This afternoon we found the Matshipiri female at Buffalo Bush Dam with the remains of a bushbuck kill. She’d done a poor job of stashing the carcass, but when we spotted a hungry looking hyena close by we realised why. The female continued to feed for the rest of the day, and by nightfall we left her asleep at the dam. She still looks very pregnant, so it can’t be too much longer before she gives birth.

In the morning we discovered a bloodied and beaten Styx pride. All four females were present, but two of the cubs were missing. The remaining two looked okay however, and the mother didn’t seem overly concerned that two of her brood were missing. The pride rested in the Sand River for the rest the day.

Monday

By this morning the two Styx cubs were still missing. In the afternoon the lionesses left the remaining two youngsters and went in search of food. They spotted a herd of impala in some thickets and immediately flanked around. The youngest female rushed in and missed, but fortunately the limping female was lying in ambush right behind her. She sprung high into the air and plucked a young male impala out of the air in mid leap. The other three females arrived shortly thereafter, and so began the food fight. In about two minutes flat the carcass was split three ways, with the oldest female losing out completely. As soon as they’d finished eating the pride went on the prowl again, although we never saw them catch anything else.

Tuesday

MalaMala Game Reserve - Styx lion pride

Styx lion pride by Andrew Batchelor

Today brought with it welcome relief when the Styx pride were found at Campbell Koppies with all four cubs present and accounted for. This is also where the oldest female has her den site, but unfortunately she hasn’t returned to it in more than a week. She lay close by throughout the day, but never actually went inside the den. This female is very old and more than likely realises that she couldn’t possibly raise her  cubs, so it looks like she has abandoned the entire litter. This is a huge blow for the Styx pride, but thankfully the older cubs are all still alive and well.

Wednesday

The Styx pride went from strength to strength this week. When we found them today they were on a massive bull kudu kill at Stwise. The entire pride was present, and all were looking extremely well fed. In the afternoon we also found the Tamboti female with a bushbuck kill, and she too had a full belly.

Thursday

When we came across them, the three Eyrefield pride members were completely stuffed and lying in the shade on the banks of the Matshipiri River. In the afternoon the trio got up and moved towards a thick drainage line. We then discovered three of the Manyelethi males in the drainage line as well, and they too were looking decidedly full. Finally we spotted the remaining two Eyrefield lionesses lying next to a large male buffalo kill. Across the river the last Manyelethi male was roaring in an attempt to locate his brothers. They didn’t bother to respond however, so the poor guy was left hungry and alone.

Friday

The Tamboti female was still at the same spot with her kill, except now she had company in the form of the Airstrip male who was looking rather hungry. Unfortunately for him the female had already polished off the bulk of the kill, and was in the mood to mate. The poor male eventually found some scraps and managed to crack a few bones in-between being harassed by the determined Tamboti female. In the end he gave in and the pair mated throughout the night and following day. A little further down the road the youngest Eyrefield lioness and the black-nosed Manyelethi male were also seen cavorting. Both lions were rather well fed though, so their mating took great effort and was interspersed with lengthy intervals.

Saturday

MalaMala Game Reserve - Female cheetah

Female cheetah by Andrew Batchelor

We had two great sightings today. The first was of the young female cheetah, who we haven’t seen that much of since she left her mother at the end of last year. She was active and very lean when we found her moving through some Combretum thickets on the hunt for something to eat. She eventually came to rest in some shade as the day heated up. A short while later her hunger spurred her into action again, and she continued her search for food. Without warning the female cheetah burst into top gear and disappeared behind a fallen over tree. The short and desperate gurgle of a steenbok indicated that she’d caught something, so we went to have a closer look. The young female steenbok was putting up a terrific fight, but even though the cheetah didn’t have the best grip on its throat, it was at least enough to keep her prey quiet. She then dragged the kill into some shade where she was able to rearrange her grip and kill the buck. Luck was definitely on her side because she subsequently managed to eat the entire animal without any intruders pitching up to steal it from her.

The last sighting of the week was also a real goodie. We found the Charleston pride feeding on a buffalo carcass. Three adults were present, and had with them three young cubs that we haven’t seen before. The little guys appear to be in the region of four months old. Having already eaten most of the buffalo by the time we got there, all the lions were looking fat and happy. The adults are all in great shape and looking very healthy. From the look of things the takeover by the two new males went smoothly, and the pride is now flourishing as a result. Unfortunately for us it appears that they are living more to the south of our boundary these days.

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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