In terms of spectacular game viewing, the week more than delivered. We kicked it off with the Charleston lion pride still on their buffalo kill, although they’d since been joined by one of the Kruger males. The Kikilezi female leopard hit on some unexpected luck when the large kudu she’d killed wasn’t discovered for a full two days. After spending an entire day with the Jakalsdraai female leopard, we’re still none the wiser as to where her den site is. We saw the Dudley female leopard again after a fairly lengthy absence, and the Kikilezi and Tamboti female leopards were both found with kills. The Styx lionesses were out and about, with the eldest one spending time with the Manyelethi males. The week ended with the return of the Eyrefield pride. Good times.
If knowing how many times we saw each of the following animals during the past week has you doing the happy jig, then this section is especially for you: lion – 13; leopard – 25; elephant – 36; rhino – 19; 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.
The Charleston pride were still on their buffalo kill last night, but when we returned this morning we found that the Kruger male with the bad limp had since joined them as well. He lounged around the carcass with the eldest female, while the mother and her three cubs wandered off with the sub-adult female for a drink of water. When they returned the cubs tried to feed off the kill while mom rested in the shade. What was particularly interesting to note was the greeting the young female offered the male on her return. She is still very young, and well below breeding age, but for some reason the two Kruger males have have decided against trying to kill her. Something they wouldn’t have hesitated doing had it been the Eyrefield or Styx prides. Instead they are all quite relaxed in one another’s presence, or at least that’s how it seems from an outsider’s perspective.
We found the Kikilezi female leopard in the Mlowathi River with a freshly killed kudu, so fresh in fact, that she hadn’t even started feeding on it yet. Unfortunately she’d bitten off more than she could chew in terms of size, and wasn’t able to drag it out of the exposed position in the river. We were convinced that she’d lose her prize quickly as a result. Much to our surprise we were wrong in our assumptions (happily so, mind you), and the Kikilezi female wasn’t discovered with the kill until the evening of the 23rd. But by then she’d already enjoyed two full days of feeding, so it didn’t matter all that much. On Wednesday she was still in the area, even though her kill had since been hijacked by hyenas. The Airstrip male was also about, and chased the Kikilezi female up a large Marula tree before investigating further. After finding no evidence of the kill, he then followed the direction that the hyenas had dragged their stolen goods in. But in the end all he received for his efforts was some leftover skin. Disgruntled he moved off, leaving the Kikilezi female to wander off in peace.
We enjoyed a rare sighting of the Dudley female today. She was resting in Princess Alice pans when we found her, and looked to be either heavily pregnant or lactating. Unfortunately with her being fast asleep it was hard to tell which it was. Hopefully she is indeed a new or expectant mom, because it would be really great to witness this female raise another generation of leopard cubs to adulthood.
When we found the Jakkalsdraai female at Flat Rocks the new mom was looking rather lean, but that didn’t stop us from hoping that she would take us to her den site. One vehicle spent the entire day with her, but the female was clearly determined to hunt, and showed no inclination to return to her cubs before she’d had something to eat. By nightfall she still wasn’t successful in her endeavours.
We found the Tamboti female on our western boundary with a freshly killed impala. She had only just treed the kill when we arrived, and immediately set about tucking in. Hyenas pitched up just after dark, and a pair of honey badgers also made an appearance close to the kill site. The young female was unperturbed by her audience however, and instead of dropping the kill as sometimes happens, she just relaxed and made the most of the meal.
With the cubs were nowhere to be seen, the three younger Styx lionesses spent their time hunting around the Mlowathi. The eldest female met up with two of the Manyelethi males at Campbell Koppies, but neither group had any success hunting.
Today brought with it different fortunes for the Styx pride. We tracked the three younger females and the cubs down to a drainage line close to Ostrich Koppies, where they were on a large waterbuck bull kill. The eldest female was still hanging around with the two Manyelethi males in the Mlowathi River, although we haven’t given up on the hopethat she might be hiding some of her cubs (if they are still alive) in the river, as we haven’t seen her at Campbell Koppies in ages. She is still lactating, so all we can do is wait and see.
We had several sightings of the Ostrich Koppies female’s cub throughout the week. The youngster has taken to hanging around Mlowathi Dam, where she’s been trying her hand at hunting squirrels and francolins, albeit without much success. We found her in the Mlowathi River again today, and this time she was drinking from a small puddle. The curious cub soon moved out of the river and milled around for a bit, before leading us to her mother who was resting in the shade of a Buffalo-thorn tree. We discovered the barely touched remains of a large male impala around the back of the tree, which the pair fed occasionally fed on for the remainder of the day. By nightfall the kill was still too heavy for the female to hoist into the tree though.
The next morning the Ostrich Koppies female and her cub were still in the area, and likewise, the kill was still on the ground. That afternoon we spotted the eldest Styx lioness lying close by. As evening drew closer she got active and headed north towards the leopards. By nightfall she’d picked up on the scent of the kill and started jogging towards the area. Fortunately the Ostrich Koppies female noticed the lioness in time, and quickly disappeared into the darkness. The cub was on the kill at the time, but as soon as her mother ran off she stopped eating long enough to take note of what was going on. The Styx lioness saw the kill and the cub at the same time, and immediately rushed in. Thankfully the wily youngster spotted the charging lioness and leapt to the top of the Buffalo-thorn in a split second. The Styx female dragged the kill a little way off and began feeding, leaving the stranded cub to watch in silence as her mother slunk around in the shadows searching for her. Just then the Gowrie male came strolling down the road, with no clue as to what was going on just 20 yards ahead. The Ostrich Koppies female appeared in front of him, but as soon as she saw it wasn’t her cub she wasted no time running off again. The male continued south down the road, scent marked along the river, and then returned to the area. He approached cautiously, and through the Acacia thicket made out the Styx lioness crunching away. He chose caution over bravery, and snuck off to see another day.
The last day of the week saw the return of some of the Eyrefield pride members. We found the eldest female and two of the young adults lying just north of Rattrays Camp with one of the Manyelethi males. They all looked well fed, although that didn’t stop them from showing interest in a small group of kudu. After the failed attempt the fat cats fell fast asleep again. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.
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.