We’ve had some exciting times here at MalaMala. Continuing where we left off last week. The Styx lioness and her four youngsters were feasting happily on the buffalo calf she’d so adroitly caught, while Airstrip male leopard took time off from his busy mating schedule to catch a snack. We discovered new lions on the property, and it turns out the Flockfield female leopard has not one but two cubs! The Tamboti female leopard caused quite a stir by making a kill right outside the staff village. And finally, a hyena has a lucky day.
If numbers blow your hair back, then this section is especially for you: lion – 12; leopard – 16; elephant – 39; rhino – 29; buffalo – 18; 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.
This morning brought with it a lovely surprise for everyone out on drive. Tracks of lion on top of buffalo led us to two male lions fast asleep on Matshipiri Dam Road. From a distance we immediately assumed them to be two of the Manyelethi brothers, but once we got closer it became apparent that the pair was in fact much younger. Their manes were smaller, and their noses decidedly pinker! One of the males became slightly uneasy when we got too close, but from a distance both of them were quite relaxed. Their bellies were very big, so they must have snagged themselves a buffalo during the night. We’re not sure where they came from, and by afternoon they were gone again. We didn’t see them for the remainder of the week either.
Throughout the day the Styx lioness and her four cubs fed on the buffalo calf that the determined female had single handedly brought down the evening before. By afternoon all that was left was the leg bones and skin. This didn’t deter the cubs however, as they continued to feed feverishly on the scant remains. By now these youngsters understand that they need to make the most of every opportunity, as they can never be sure when they’ll be getting their next meal. The lioness spent the majority of the day a hundred or so meters off, while her cubs bickered with one another over each and every remaining morsel. Lying on her back with her paws in the air, it was clear that she was content with life.
The Airstrip male leopard was still hanging out with his unidentified lady friend. But what started off as a normal sighting quickly made an about turn, and suddenly went from everyday to spectacular. On Saturday most of us were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the mating pair before they moved off into some thick reeds, so today we returned to the area to see if we could track them down again. The leopards were still together when we eventually found them at Mlowathi Crossing. They were on the move though, stopping only every now and then to mate. A short while into the sighting the pair went into some very thick bush, which made following them quite an ordeal. Our “bundu bashing” efforts were soon rewarded however, as the Airstrip male suddenly began stalking something. He dashed in, and moments later reappeared with a baby nyala firmly clasped in his jaws. The small buck’s final distress calls echoed over the radio as we announced the male’s catch to everyone in the field. All the unidentified female could do was watch as her greedy companion sat aggressively over his kill and fed on it. Within an hour he’d finished eating, and after the requisite grooming the two made their way down to the river. When we found them again in the afternoon they were just emerging from the reeds into the gorgeous afternoon sunlight. Still enjoying each other’s company, they had no idea they were being watched by another female leopard on the far bank of the river. She didn’t seem all that interested in their antics though, preferring to just observe them from a distance.
Every so often we find ourselves lucky enough to see a rare animal, and today we enjoyed one such auspicious occasions when we were afforded a fleeting glimpse of a Black rhino. Unfortunately we don’t often get to see much more than that when it comes to this not oft seen pachyderm, but still, fleeting is better than nothing right? This is the fourth time we’ve spotted one of these elusive animals this year. Later on in the week we came across fresh dung and scuff marks much further north, which means it’s quite possible that we have more than just one Black rhino roaming around the reserve.
The week turned out to be full of surprises. Today we discovered that the Flockfield female leopard actually has two cubs, and not just one as previously thought. When we found the female with her two little ones – who appear to be about two and a half months old – they were just walking along enjoying the day. Knowing full well how nervous this female can be, we made sure to view them from a fair distance off. The Flockfield female continued with her two inquisitive youngsters, glancing back every so often just to make sure that we weren’t following. When the trio disappeared into some thick vegetation, we left them to themselves rather than risk scaring them off but trying to follow. This discreet female has some really good territory at her disposal, especially as it’s an area the lions don’t frequent very often. With this in mind, the cubs stand an excellent chance of making it to adulthood.
The discovery of a new leopard cub wasn’t the only exciting thing that happened to today however. In the evening a very unusual announcement came over the radio. There was a huge commotion right next to the village fence line, and on investigating staff found the Tamboti female leopard with an adult female impala kill. She then took the kill up a tree that was so close to the fence, its branches were just about hanging over. Choosing to err on the side of caution, the following day we removed the kill and dragged it some distance away from the village. The Tamboti female wasn’t giving up on her hard earned meal that easily though, and as soon we left she immediately dragged it up into another tree. Having caught whiff of the kill, a hyena milled hopefully at the tree’s base. Although it soon realised it wasn’t going to be getting any food from this leopard, and subsequently left the area again.
This morning we discovered a hyena feeding on a large male kudu carcass. Although it was still very fresh, there was no sign as to what might have killed it. There were no visible bite marks on its throat, and the blood surrounding the carcass was bright red, indicating that it was oxygenated. We therefore surmised the cause of death to be a lung wound, most probably as a result of a fight with another male. The hyena was already nice and full by the time we arrived, and by evening there was nothing left of the carcass. No doubt the rest of the clan had since joined their mate to share in the spoils.
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.