The following are the highlights for the weeks between 22 December 2011 and 9 January 2012. We’ve broken it down per predator, rather than the usual blow by blow weekly updates. Those will start again on Tuesday! We welcomed some new additions, saw the return of some old favorites, and witnessed a number of exciting kills. The Selati males have been the cause of some ruffled feathers in the Manyelethi coalition, who responded by vigorously marking the southern border of their territory. Our leopards didn’t disappoint either, providing guests with some memorable game viewing. All in all, we enjoyed a fantastic festive season up here at MalaMala, and we look forward to sharing more with you in 2012!
Don’t forget that you can always refer to the Wildlife Sightings Maps for a more detailed look at what was seen where.
While you, dear readers, were all enjoying a well-deserved break with friends and family, our animals remained in full swing. The Styx and Eyrefield prides both had a great three weeks, and the Manyelethi males have been moving around quite a bit in order to maintain a hold ontheir massive territory.
At the beginning of the report period the Styx pride moved northwards over the boundary near Clarendon Dam. We found them again at Pat’s Drift when they came back down again a few days later. The weeks that followed were filled with exceptional sightings of these females and their five cubs. Although they were active most evenings, their hunting efforts brought little success. They did manage to kill a small buffalo around Fourways open area on New Year’s day however, which they fed on for most of the morning.
They then made their way back to their usual hunting grounds in the Mlowathi and Piccadilly areas. The five youngsters are all doing well, with the smallest one in particular growing rapidly thanks to his steady diet of milk and meat. At this stage the older cubs, which are now close on a year old, are still stealing milk every now and then (their own mother stopped lactating months ago). This leads to much growling and grumpiness from the little guy, as it means less for him.
The Eyrefield pride had an unbelievable time during this period. The females made many a kill, and also welcomed some new additions to the family (more on that later). On the 1st we found four lionesses with two cubs and three of the Manyelethi males on an adult buffalo bull kill on the Airstrip. They remained on the kill for four days, which provided some great game viewing that included the adults and cubs actively feeding on occasion.
On the third day the younger pale lioness arrived at the kill site. We’d heard reports of her having very young cubs just to our west, so we waited patiently until she led us southwards. Waiting for their mom in a dense clump of bushes were three tiny cubs, not even a month old yet. This was an epochal moment for both the Eyrefield pride and the MalaMala team, as this is her very first litter! After a few minutes of nursing in some dense vegetation, it appeared as if she was going to leave the cubs and return to the pride.
But then she called and one of the babies came out. She picked it up and carried it almost a kilometer away to under West Street. She then returned and repeated the exercise with the remaining two. To witness a lioness carrying a cub is a rare privilege. Seeing those huge canines and massive jaw, which are designed to kill and rip flesh, tenderly carry something so small that it barely weighs 10 pounds, is nothing short of astounding. It was an event that guests and rangers alike will remember for the rest of their lives.
Seeing the softer side of these big cats was short-lived however, as the pride, along with two of the Manyelethi males, then killed two wildebeest in one night just north of Rattrays. Let’s hope they can keep this great killing record up so their new additions have as much of an advantage as possible.
The Manyelethi males have also had a busy three weeks. They spent most of their time between with the Styx and Eyrefield prides, but also ventured quite far south (near the Zebra skull) on occasion. This was to mark their southern boundary and to reiterate to the young Selati males that they shouldn’t try anything foolish.
This was just before New Year, soon after we’d witnessed the Selati males killing a young buffalo near Paradise Valley. When we went to follow up the next morning we discovered three of the Manyelethi males just north of where the carcass was. Tracks of the Selati males heading much farther south were all that remained to show they’d been there. On New Year’s day we found the youngsters on a buffalo kill in the Rock Drift donga near the Sand River. Fortunately for them the Manyelethi males were with the Eyrefield pride on the Airstrip at that point.
Between the new Eyrefield cubs, the three different buffalo kills by three different sets of lions on the same day, as well as some new friction between the males in the north and south, it’s been a very interesting few weeks. The next months are sure to prove equally fascinating.
Our leopards have provided some great viewing over the past few weeks, with some interesting interactions, kills witnessed, a few new additions, and the return of old friends making up the bulk of it.
The Kikilezi female has had a great run of it lately. Not only has she been mating with the Airstrip male, but she also had an interaction with a young male leopard around the Campbell Koppies area. On New Year’s eve we were entertained by her antics yet again, when she took down a steenbok with the ease of a consummate professional. She wasn’t being followed at the time; in fact we hadn’t even seen her prior to the kill. All of a sudden we saw her dart out next to the road and kill the hapless buck in broad daylight. She then dragged it into the Mlowathi River and feasted on her hard-earned dinner.
On the morning of the 5th she had a brief interaction with the Tamboti female from across the river. Both females scent marked and roared profusely from their respective banks. We lost sight of them when they headed into the Sand River towards each other near the Giraffe Bones. We waited for a while, but with no further visuals or audio forthcoming, we eventually gave up and left.
The Airstrip male certainly did his fair share of moving around the property. He was mating with the Kikilezi female around Campbell Koppies one evening, when all of a sudden he pounced on and killed a scrub hare. He didn’t share his bite-sized dinner with his lady friend however, and when we left them they were still growling into the night. This up and coming young male is getting more and more bold in his movements. We saw him around West Street on one day, south of Mlowathi Dam the next, and in Buffalo Pans on the morning after that.
The report period also saw the return of a few of the leopards we haven’t seen recently. The Tamboti female finally showed face again after a fairly lengthy absence. We saw the Ostrich Koppies female on the northern boundary, while her mother, the Campbell Koppies female, was spotted mating with a young male west of Mlowathi Dam. These two also had a duiker kill in the area. The Jakkalsdraai female and her cub were seen in the far south near Calabash Crossing. The cub is doing very well, and is also remarkably relaxed around the vehicles. We saw the 2009 son of the Dudley female twice, once near Rattrays and once near F-Bend open area. This behavior is typical of young male leopards when they are still trying to establish a territory for themselves.
The most notable leopard sighting in the last few weeks was meeting the MalaMala leopard family’s newest additions. When we discovered the Matshipiri female in the Hogvaal donga on Family Day, it was evident that she had been nursing. Following up the next day, we were rewarded with the sight of two little leopard cubs in the donga. They have only been seen one other time since, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed that these little guys have a great future ahead of them.
We were lucky enough to have the Wild dogs back with us on two separate occasions. The first time we saw them was in the south on our boundary road. Unfortunately we were unable to follow them as we’d had a massive rainstorm earlier that morning, which meant off-roading was out of bounds.
The second time we came across them yielded far more rewarding results. We followed them for most of the morning, and watched in awe as they made three impala kills before settling down for their morning siesta. They were just north of Campbell Koppies when we found them, and from there they ran north and west towards the Mlowathi. Later on in the afternoon they headed north and west to just north of Stwise.
The two brothers have made up the bulk of our cheetah viewing for the past two years, and it was no different over the past few weeks. We viewed them a total of three times since Christmas. They were mostly around Clarendon Dam; except for one auspicious afternoon when we found them with an impala kill in the Matshipiri River north of Fourways Crossing. After feeding on the carcass for a while, they left shortly before dark.
We also came across a young female cheetah near Paddy’s Pools on the afternoon of the 4th. This is the same young female that has been viewed on northern MalaMala for the past few months. She also looks to be in good shape.
We saw two Sable antelope on the Kruger National Park boundary near Clarendon Dam on the morning of the 22nd. It’s always a pleasure to see the animal from which both our name and emblem are derived.
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.