We enjoyed an abundance of fantastic cat sightings this week, including some interesting interactions between the animals. The Styx lion pride bagged themselves what has to be one of their easiest meals to date. The daughter of the Campbell Koppies female leopard successfully evaded what could have been a rather sticky situation, as did a young male leopard when he ventured into the Flockfield female leopard’s territory. The cheetah brothers were out and about, and seen on no fewer than four separate occasions. We also came across a pride of lions we’ve never seen before, the large male leopard from Gowrie, and a Black-backed jackal female with pups.
If you’re wild with excitement at the thought of how many times we saw what, then this section is especially for you: lion – 18; leopard – 14; elephant – 18; rhino – 31; buffalo – 20; wild dog – 0; cheetah – 4.
Don’t forget that you can always refer to the Wildlife Sightings Maps for a more detailed look at what was seen where.
On the subject of trespassing
On Sunday morning a young male leopard learnt a valuable lesson, which was to proceed with caution when in the territory of a female leopard and her cub. When we found him, the youngster in question was perched high up in the branches of a Jackalberry tree. At first the annoyed Flockfield female remained resolutely at the base of the tree, but after a while she moved a short distance off, while still keeping a watchful eye on the intruder. About 40 minutes later the male eventually climbed back down and sauntered off out of the area. The Flockfield female had in the meanwhile been calling for her cubs, which were obviously close by, but not keen on showing themselves because of the presence of the male leopard. Eventually one little guy came out of hiding, and mom and cub moved off in the opposite direction. We’re not sure where the other one got to, but the Flockfield female seemed a little nervous, so we didn’t want to risk stressing her further by hanging around to find out. When we left the pair they were moving off through some thick bush.
An easy meal for the Styx pride
After spending nearly three days in the vicinity of Mlowathi Koppies, the Styx pride, along with one of the Manyelethi males, got active early on Monday evening. Several failed attempts at catching some impala later, the lions gave up and made their way northwards. They briefly chased after a female leopard (story to follow further down), before coming across a herd of buffalo resting at Mlowathi Dam. The wind was not in their favour however, and the bovines soon smelled the predators as they made their way through the open area. This immediately created havoc within the herd, which in turn prompted the lions to make their move and chase after the unsettled buffalo. In their rush to get away, the frantic herd stampeded over an old buffalo cow. She was either dead or unconscious by the time the pride reached her, and in no time they were upon her and feeding. They really couldn’t have wished for an easier meal.
By Tuesday morning the lions had only eaten about half of the buffalo, and already they were all absolutely stuffed. Because the carcass was lying out in the open, it immediately attracted the attention of the vultures in the area. This didn’t go down well with the pride however, as a large portion of the day was then spent keeping the scavengers at bay.
A lucky escape for the daughter of the Campbell Koppies female
Shortly before the lions made their appearance at Mlowathi Dam on Wednesday night, we found the daughter of the Campbell Koppies female’s cub enjoying a drink at the dam. Once the youngster had quenched his thirst, he then wandered off into some thick bush, where he eventually came to an impala carcass. With his belly already full there was no need for him to eat, so he just crawled into a bush and fell fast asleep. Around the same time the Styx pride was walking past and happened upon the daughter of the Campbell Koppies female, who was also returning from drinking at the dam. Fortunately she was able to outwit the lions and retreat to the safety of a large tree before they had a chance to get at her. The pride soon lost interest in the leopard and moved off again. On Thursday morning we discovered both mother and son close to where we’d seen the carcass the previous evening, but by then all that remained of their meal was a few tufts of hair.
A young male leopard gets his comeuppance
Thursday morning brought with it yet another surprise in the Mlowathi Dam vicinity. With the Styx pride still on their buffalo kill next to the dam, and the two leopards sleeping off their impala meal nearby, it was with great delight that we spotted the Ostrich Koppies female leopard walking across the road, a mere 300m away from where the daughter of the Campbell Koppies female and her cub were snoozing. She soon arrived at the carcass of an adult male impala that she’d neatly stashed in a Spike-thorn thicket. What made the sighting even better though, was the fact that her cub was sleeping in the branches of a nearby Gwarrie bush. The mother and daughter pair spent most of the day resting, but when we went to follow up on them the next morning they were nowhere to be seen. Although we did manage to find the Styx pride close by in the Mlowathi River. It was immediately apparent that they were excited about something, and when we looked up we realised why. One of the lionesses was in a tree trying to get at the impala carcass that was stashed in it. Another female then came jogging back from the south, panting heavily. On following up, we discovered a young male leopard high up in the branches of a Leadwood tree. As soon as the pride moved away away from the river the young male quickly descended the tree and beat a hasty retreat. After stealing the impala kill from the Ostrich Koppies female, the tables had turned and he then had to give up on his free meal too.
New kids on the block
We’d spent the afternoon tracking a herd of buffalo on Charleston, but even though the tracks were very fresh, it took a long time to find them. This meant they must have been moving at quite a pace. When we did eventually reach the herd, it was clear that something had them rattled. Following our intuition, we then backtracked in the direction they’d come from. After a number of kilometers we came upon a pride of lions – two females (one collared) and four juvenile males – that we’d never seen before. The pride must have scared the buffalo, but not caught one. They were very relaxed around the Land Rover, and shortly after being found, made off after the herd again. They still had a huge distance to cover before reaching their prey, but from the look of things they had no intention of giving up.
We enjoyed an amazing week of cheetah viewing, with these beautiful animals being seen on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at Clarendon Dam. All four sightings were of the two brothers that we regularly see on the property. With the temperatures being as high as they have been, the cheetahs spent most of their time fast asleep in the shade. Their bellies were always full though, so hunting in the area obviously wasn’t a problem. Hopefully sightings of the pair, as well as of other cheetahs, will become even more bountiful in the coming summer months.
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.