CyberDiary – 23 October 2011

Fourways lion pride

Fourways lion pride by Andrew Batchelor

The young Styx male lion showed face after a fairly lengthy absence, as did the Bicycle Crossing male leopard. We also found the daughter of the Campbell Koppies female leopard well out of her usual territory. The Vomba female leopard’s young daughter had a spat with the Airstrip male, and although no winners were declared, she definitely held her own against this up and coming male. The buffalo herd lost a few of its members to the Styx pride of lions, who seemed to be feasting on them every time we turned a corner. All in all another great week here at MalaMala.

For all our ‘train spotters’ out there, this section is especially for you: lion – 17; leopard – 15; elephant – 22; rhino – 27; buffalo – 19; wild dog – 0; cheetah – 2.

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

The week started off with a bang, with today bringing us not one, but three, buffalo kills, all of which were made by the Styx pride. We found the bulk of the pride, including the five cubs, feasting on an adult female buffalo on the northern side of Campbell Koppies. While this was going on, we then located the missing lioness at Piccadilly Triangle with a sub-adult male buffalo of her own. She was also tucking in, albeit with a little less gusto, as she had the whole carcass to herself.

We were on the hunt for cheetahs when we came across another dead buffalo cow. Much to our surprise we discovered the young Styx male lying next to the carcass. After not seeing him in many months, it was really great to find him full bellied, and in such excellent condition as well. With all the pressure he’s had to withstand from the Manyelethi males, his mane hasn’t developed all that much. His body has filled out considerably however, and overall he is looking good.

Monday

The Styx pride members were all still feeding on their respective buffalo kills today. We also found the Tamboti female leopard hunting around the old airstrip. She made several attempts at the herds of impala gathered in the open, but none proved successful.

Tuesday

After polishing off the last of their buffalo kill, the Styx pride moved off to the river to drink and rest. The single lioness continued to struggle valiantly through the remains of her kill, and the Styx male was also still feeding when we went to check up on him. That is until a larger male arrived on the scene. One of a coalition of six that has been pushing in from the north, this was the first sighting we’ve had of any of them. The Styx male took one look at the intruder and happily gave up his kill. The new male immediately began feeding, and remained with us for two nights before relinquishing the scraps to the gathered crowd of vultures and hyenas.

Today also heralded the welcome return of the Bicycle Crossing male. We saw him in the morning crossing the western boundary, and then again in the evening as he entered the Sand River. He’s become an irregular visitor to MalaMala of late, which is a pity because he is still such a great leopard to view. But with all the pressure coming from the younger generation, it’s only a matter of time before this old stalwart will have to relinquish his prime Sand River territory. Ironically, it will most probably be to one or more of the younger males he sired.

Wednesday

The daughter of the Campbell Koppies female paid us a visit today. She was well out of her normal territory when we discovered her at Wild Dog Rocks open area. Looking rather lean, she made several attempts at different impala herds, but unfortunately her efforts were for naught. Reports from our northern neighbours say that the Gowrie male killed a young male leopard cub at the beginning of the week. The daughter of the Campbell Koppies female has a young male cub, so perhaps this is why she was so far from her regular hunting ground. It still remains to be seen if it was her cub that was killed though.

Wednesday

The two cheetah brothers made another appearance this week. The pair was lounging on a termite mound when we came across them. They slept for most of the morning, but by late afternoon were active and on the hunt again. All they found was a large herd of zebra, which are generally out of their league. The zebra clearly understood this, because they didn’t take much notice of the advancing predators. The cheetahs suddenly ran in on the nonchalant herd, causing them to take off in a frantic scramble. The brothers gave up the chase soon after, and instead continued north towards Clarendon Dam. They might have come away empty-handed, but they certainly brought the cocky equines down a peg or two.

Today’s cool overcast weather afforded us a rare sighting of some Sable antelope. When we first spotted the two large bulls, they were moving slowly west from the Matshipiri River. They relaxed down when viewed from a distance, but grew increasingly nervous whenever the vehicles approached. They made their way through the burnt area for most of the morning, and by the time we found them again in the afternoon they had crossed the open area at Clarendon.

Thursday

Vomba female leopard's daughter

The daughter of the Vomba female leopard by Andrew Batchelor

Lion tracks had us going in circles for most of the morning drive. We searched around every corner, but for the life of us we couldn’t locate the cats. Later that afternoon we returned to the area and found the Fourways pride lying in the sand at the Hogvaal donga. They had killed two buffalo calves during the morning, which explained why we hadn’t been able to find them. A predator on the hunt is never that easy to spot. The lions spent the next two days intermittently feeding off the kills and lounging around in the donga, until eventually there was nothing left of either carcass.

An impala conspicuously pinned in a tiny Acacia tree led us to the daughter of the Vomba female. She must have killed it during the night, and then felt pressured to tree her prize before lurking hyenas stole it from her. In her haste she chose the first available tree, which happened to be a paltry ten foot high Acacia. She made do though, carefully navigating its delicate limbs at dusk to feed. By nightfall the astute leopard was well fed. She then decided it was time to find a safer place in which to stash her kill, and subsequently tried to remove it from the tree. As she was descending with the carcass, the head got stuck in one of the lower forks. The female tried for ages to dislodge it, but didn’t manage. So she simply carried on eating. The fact that the kill was now dangling at an inconvenient angle didn’t seem to concern to her all that much.

To make matters even more interesting, the Airstrip male emerged from the riverbed to the south of the kill site and headed in the young female’s direction. Blissfully unaware of his approach, she then decided to amble down to the river for a drink. Needless to say she walked straight into him, which immediately had the Airstrip male on the offensive. The daughter of the Vomba female shot up a nearby tree to escape her pursuer, but he wasn’t that easily deterred. He quickly  followed, catching up with her in the tree’s upper branches. The pair came to blows, with the female giving back every bit as good as she got. After the brief spat they each retreated to their separate corners for a break. Although this didn’t stop them from hurling the occasional snarl, or hissing vehemently if one or the other got too close. The Airstrip male eventually climbed back down and went to investigate where the female had come from. He came to a stop at the tiny Acacia, but after a brief inspection decided the miserly leftovers weren’t worth the effort.

Friday

Son of Sparta female leopard

Son of the Sparta female leopard by Andrew Batchelor

Yesterday we came across an injured sub-adult buffalo lying in Matshipiri open area, that had been abandoned by its herd. By this morning it was dead, and vultures had already begun gathering for the feast. The problem was that they couldn’t break through the buffalo’s tough hide. Luckily for them the 2006 son of the Sparta female was close by, and he quickly took advantage of the free meal. The male remained at the carcass for the entire day, but by nightfall he’d decided to move on. Perhaps the idea of a ‘free meal’ suddenly seemed suspicious to him. After leaving the kill, he proceeded to scent mark his way along the Matshipiri River. With the recent disappearance of the Emsagwen male, this youngster could easily take over the territory around the Matshipiri River.

Saturday

Airstrip male leopard

The Airstrip male leopard by Andrew Batchelor

The last day of the week brought with it two greatly contrasted sightings. First we found the Airstrip male sleeping just outside Main Camp in the morning. When he did eventually get active, he casually strolled past the camp and into the river, where he slept off the heat of the day. Later that evening we found him striding down the eastern bank of the Sand River, close to West Street. Slightly battled scarred, but in excellent condition, he walked with pride, like a leopard who is in control and coming into the peak of his prowess.

On the opposite side of the coin, we came across the Bicycle Crossing male in the south around the Rock Drift donga. He was also snoozing in the late afternoon sun, but every sound he heard caused him to cast about nervously. His body appeared to be in great shape, but his lips were slightly droopy, and there was saliva drooling down his chest. Overall, he looked ragged and tired. Perhaps age is finally catching up with to this magnificent male, and no doubt, the pressure from the ‘young guns’ is probably getting to him as well. Restless and ruffled, he slept well past the time he should have been getting active. Yet another sign that he is coming to the end of his reign?

And that folks, brings to a close another fantastic week at MalaMala. You can view the rest of the CyberDiary photos on Facebook or Flickr. 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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