CyberDiary – 31 July 2011

MalaMala Game Reserve - Styx-Pride

Styx lion pride by Donald MacCrimmon

With the amount of mating we’ve been privy to of late, spring is clearly on the way. The Manyelethi males seem to have finally accepted that the younger lionesses are adults now, which has helped both the Styx and Eyrefield prides considerably. This shift in attitude could also mean the pitter patter of little paws later in the year. The Fourways pride finally showed face after spending time further to our north. Sadly their return was bitter-sweet as one of their cubs is missing. One of the Eyrefield lionesses managed to take down a young buffalo all by herself. Her lazy cronies only pitched up to help once most of the hard work had been done. The Tamboti female leopard bagged herself an impala, which resulted in a lot of action. The Styx pride was seen hanging together as a whole for the first time since the arrival of the cubs. And finally, the Emsagwen male and the older son of the Sparta female each found an unidentified lady friend to cavort with. Spring’s around the corner folks, time to book your next trip!

For those of you who begged Santa for an abacus every Christmas without fail, this is how many times we saw each of the following animals during the past week: lion – 15; leopard – 11; elephant – 12; rhino – 14; buffalo – 11; 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

After a fairly long absence we finally found the Fourways pride lying close to Buffalo Bush Dam in the afternoon. There were only three cubs present however, and when we saw them again a few days later the young female cub was still missing. The lionesses have been spending some time to our north, and we heard reports recently that they were being chased around by six young male lions. We assume the cub must have been caught in the cross-fire and killed. While this is sad news, it’s unfortunately also the nature of the bush. Generally only 50% of lion cubs will make it safely into adulthood in the wild.

Monday

MalaMala Game Reserve - Eyrefield lion pride

Eyrefield lion pride by Andrew Batchelor

We were woken this morning by the distress calls of a buffalo, and immediately rushed out to find out what was going on. The large herd of buffalo was down at the river opposite Main Camp when we found them, although they weren’t drinking. We arrived to find one of the Eyrefield lionesses holding a sub-adult buffalo by the throat. With no backup in sight, she somehow managed to keep control of the feisty youngster who was trying his utmost to throw the predator off. For reasons we couldn’t fathom, the buffalo didn’t charge to the rescue of their captured herd member, and instead just stood around looking slightly confused. The rest of the pride members eventually emerged from the reeds and aided the lioness in bringing the buffalo under control. Once it was dead, the female that had caught the buffalo initially dragged her prize into the reeds south of the causeway. The pride then set about devouring the carcass, while the rest of the herd beat a hasty retreat. By the late afternoon the entire buffalo was finished and the five now extremely fat lionesses all collapsed in a heap on the rocks at Pedro’s Pub.

That same night the Tamboti female made a kill of her own. We found her in the morning at the airstrip, and then again in the afternoon around West Street bridge. Looking decidedly lean, the female started hunting before the sun had even set. She set her sights on some impala and stealthily made her way towards them. As evening gave way to night, the leopard stalked ever closer. Like a flash, she suddenly ran in and caught an adult female. The impala didn’t utter a sound as the Tamboti female clamped down hard on its throat, holding tightly until all the life had drained out of it. The leopard then dragged her kill towards a large Jackal-berry tree, where she tried several times to drag it up to safety. Unfortunately having spent the majority of her energy on the hunt, the buck proved too heavy for the relatively small leopard to drag up the tree. In the end her hunger got the better of her, and she began feeding on the ground.

Tuesday

We found the large herd of buffalo at Paraffin Drift, and none of us were surprised when we spotted lions close by. Interestingly, the cats in question were the oldest and youngest lionesses from the Styx pride and the Manyelethi male with the scar on his hip. All interactions were peaceful, and the young lioness was even trying to mate with the male. It’s wonderful to see that she is finally being accepted as an adult. Hopefully the pride can now reunite again like the Eyrefield pride did. The oldest female is also looking heavily pregnant, which comes as quite a surprise. At her advanced age many of us assumed she’d be barren by now, but it looks like she might still be able to produce one more litter for a pride that so desperately needs all the help it can get. It will definitely be interesting to watch how things transpire should this female indeed give birth to a healthy litter of cubs. Raising them could prove to be a challenge for her,  as she’s blind in one eye and struggles to keep up with the pride when walking, let alone hunting. We also found the five Eyrefield lionesses in the Ngoboswan donga.

Wednesday

We found the Eyrefield lionesses again today, and this time the five were lying in the Sand River just south of where the Tamboti female had her kill. We tracked two of the Manyelethi males to the exact spot in the Ngoboswan donga where we’d left the Eyrefield pride the night before, so it came as no surprise when we spotted the remains of a large kudu bull that the males had no doubt stolen from the females. The two males spent the rest of the day feeding on the scraps, before eventually passing out from their over indulgence.

In the meantime action in the river was heating up.

The Tamboti female was lying in the Jackalberry tree with her kill, when the young male leopard that we’ve been seeing a lot of in the last few months showed up. He ran up the tree and went straight for the kill. The gutsy female, street fighter that she is, intercepted him halfway up and started a brawl in the tree. The noise carried over to the Eyrefield pride in the river, who immediately came jogging over to see what all the ruckus was about. The young male managed to overpower the Tamboti female and unceremoniously turfed her out the tree. He then claimed his prize, leaving the disgruntled female to hightail it out of the area just before the lions showed up. The kill had somehow managed to stayed lodged in the tree throughout, which meant that the lions would have to go climbing in order to steal it. One of the younger lionesses was the first to try her luck, but couldn’t quite reach the kill and returned to the ground. The Tamboti female then returned to the scene and climbed up a nearby Marula tree, watching the goings-on from what she thought to be a safe distance. Unfortunately one of the lionesses spotted her and immediately ran over and climbed up to the lower branches of the tree in a bid to put an end to the Tamboti female, who in turn simply climbed to the upper most reaches of the tree and sat there hissing at the lioness. The entire pride then returned to the riverbed, leaving the Tamboti female to slink out of the area and the young male leopard to enjoy his stolen meal.

Things didn’t end there however, because that afternoon we had round two: return of the Eyrefield pride. The pride got active in the early afternoon and headed straight back to the Jackal-berry tree. The young leopard was still on the impala kill, so one of the females climbed up and tried a second time to steal the kill. The young male grabbed the impala remains in the nick of time, and hauled his stash to the top of the tree. Luckily for him this was just far enough up that it was out of reach. The determined lioness tried for some time to figure out a way to get at the meat, but eventually gave up and exited the tree in a rather ungraceful manner. The young male then spent the next two days gnawing on the impala bones.

Thursday

MalaMala Game Reserve - Styx Lion Pride

MalaMala Game Reserve - Styx Lion Pride

We found the entire Styx pride – the four females and the four cubs – lounging in the Mlowathi River and looking well fed. This is the first time in ages that we’ve seen the pride together. It’s really great to see them starting to reunite and move as a single unit again.

Friday

We saw the Styx pride again today, this time minus one of the adult females. Even so, it was fantastic to see that the pride was still largely together. Let’s hope things continue in this vein. We also found one of the young Eyrefield lionesses mating with one of the Manyelethi males. It’s nice to see that the young females are mating, because it means they’re being accepted by this dominant coalition.

Saturday

Today we had an impressive three pairs of mating cats. The lions (as mentioned above) were still going at it, and in addition to them we also found two lots of mating leopards. In the morning we spotted the Emsagwen male with an unidentified female at Wildebeest Crossing. The female was very young and a little nervous of vehicles, but that didn’t deter her from mating with the dominant male. They moved along the Sand River, and from there went north in the Matshipiri River. When we left them they were close to Emsagwen waterhole. Next we came across the older son of the Sparta female at Styx Crossing, and he too was with an unidentified female leopard. The pair made their way slowly down the Kapen River. This male was seen setting up territory right down in the south of MalaMala, so it came as something of a surprise to see him in this area. But with the Bicycle Crossing male shifting his territory, it looks like this male might be looking to move into the Kapen region. As for the unidentified females, we will have to wait and see where, and indeed if, they set up their respective territories.

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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