CyberDiary – 13 November 2011

Styx lion cub with tortoise

Styx lion cub with tortoise by Matt Meyer

We enjoyed a fantastic week of sightings in spite of the really hot weather. The Styx male followed the Fourways pride and came up short. The Airstrip male and Tamboti female were still mating, no surprise there. Staying on the subject of loving’, one of the older Eyrefield lionesses was seen mating with one of the Manyelethi males. We had a very brief glimpse of a pack of Wild dogs, came across a female cheetah near Clarendon, and watched a puzzled Styx cub play with a tortoise. The migrant birds are also winging their way back to our neck of the woods.

If you’re sitting with your pen and little black book at the ready, then this section is especially for you: lion – 21; leopard – 14; elephant – 29; rhino – 29; buffalo – 26; wild dog – 1; 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!

Dark Mane Manyelethi male

Dark-mane Manyelethi male by Matt Meyer

Sunday brought with it a sighting that was both exciting and disappointing. We found one of the older Eyrefield lionesses – the one with no hair on her tail – mating with one of the Manyelethi males. Her lactating nipples led us to believe that she had cubs hidden somewhere in the Sand River, but the fact that she is mating again makes us suspect that the babies may well be dead. Then again, as the newest addition to the Styx pride recently proved, these little guys are often more resilient than we give them credit for.

In search of company

Fourways lioness and Styx male

Fourways lioness and Styx male by Kurt Betels

Picking up on the scent of some lions, the young Styx male quickly discerned that what he was smelling were not big males, but rather lionesses with their cubs. The isolated life a young nomadic lion is extremely hard, but when we found him on Sunday morning he seemed driven by a sense of excitement and restlessness.

Calling softly from time to time, the Styx male followed the trail with his nose close to the ground. He passed a large herd of zebra and the scant remains of a buffalo carcass en route, and neither received even so much as a cursory glance from him, so focused was he on the task at hand. After fifteen minutes the young male paused, looked up, and spotted the Fourways pride. We weren’t sure if he maybe mistook them for his old pride, or if he was just looking for a new one to join up with.

Ever so slowly, he edged his way closer to them. By that point the females had not only noticed him, but were already snarling their disapproval with teeth bared. The Styx male immediately lay down in a submissive stance to show them he wasn’t a threat. One of the lionesses came charging at him regardless however, and this was no mock charge either. As soon as she reached the male she tore right into him. Grabbing a mouthful of skin on the back of his neck, she tried in vain to shake him around, but his large frame prevented her from doing so. We got the distinct impression that he didn’t want to show aggression, as he barely defended himself. When the second female came to the aide of her pride mate, the first lioness released her grip on the cowering male. But now he had two angry females trying to bite and swat him, so he eventually he decided to put up a meager defense by swatting back at his attackers. Although it was obvious that he was doing this purely for self-protection, and not to really harm them.

The attack lasted all of twenty seconds, but the resulting adrenalin rush made it feel a lot longer than that for everyone present. The pride finally walked off, leaving the Styx male by himself again. In spite of all the aggression shown towards him, he continued following them at a distance. Apparently all he wanted was a bit of company.

Love is still in the air

Airstrip Male and Tamboti female leopard

Airstrip male and Tamboti female leopard by Matt Meyer

We were yet again fortunate enough to see leopards mating this past week. After another extremely hot day, the cool evening air coaxed out none other than MalaMala’s favourite leopard couple – the Airstrip male and Tamboti female. This particular mating cycle began towards the end of last week, so by the time we came across them it seemed to be drawing to a close. Never the less, the leopards put on a great show for everyone present. They grew even more active once it got dark, mating more frequently, while at the same time looking to hunt. The pair was walking through some thick bush, so visibility was not all that great. We did manage to see a flash of spots though, which at least confirmed that the Airstrip male was chasing something. Whatever it was lived to see another day however, because when we followed up we found that his efforts hadn’t been successful. We came across the leopards again the following morning, this time at Bicycle Crossing hippo pools. They were still at it.

There’s a new cheetah in the ‘hood

Female cheetah

Female cheetah by Matt Meyer

Early on Tuesday morning we headed north and east in the direction of Clarendon, in hopes of finding the two cheetah brothers. We worked the area for quite a while, but couldn’t find them anywhere. It was only once we began our return southwards that we spotted a young female cheetah on the northern boundary. She appeared to be on high alert, and continually looked back over her shoulder as she moved towards the west. Just then we discovered tracks of what appeared to be a male cheetah crossing in from the Kruger National Park. This was just east of the female, so we suspect that she might have had an encounter with him. She eventually relaxed down again, giving us the opportunity to watch her for a few hours as she unsuccessfully chased a steenbok and perched on various termite mounds in-between to rest. We eventually lost her going into some very dense vegetation, where she was chasing after an impala at about 100km/h. We found her tracks again later that afternoon, but didn’t manage to locate her.

Who let the dogs out?

Wednesday evening treated us to a fantastic sighting of a pack of Wild dogs. Also know as Cape Hunting dogs, it’s hard to believe that these beautiful animals were once considered vermin and shot on sight. Fortunately this archaic way of thinking is a thing of the past, and Wild dogs are now seen as top predators and healthy population controllers. Unfortunately we only came across this eight strong pack after sunset, a time of day when animals transform into nothing more than shadows. We also have a strict policy of not viewing Wild dogs at night, so we left the pack just as they were setting out on their hunt.

Look who’s back!

Last weekend heralded the long awaited return of the Woodland kingfisher. It was about a week later than most of us expected, but on Saturday afternoon a guest spotted one close to West Street Bridge. The summer migrant must have just arrived, as these birds usually call incessantly while perched. It’s a long flight, so it was most probably just catching its breath. Still, it’s nice to know that their calls will once again form part of the bush’s daily orchestra. These feathered beauties are easy to recognise even if you’re not an ornithologist, as their teal blue feathers and bright red beaks make them really easy to spot.

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