Cyberdiary – 08 May 2012

Bicycle Crossing Male, by Matt Meyer

Bicycle Crossing Male, by Matt Meyer

Leopards both old and new were to dominate the last week at MalaMala. An old male from our past graced our viewfinders, while another continues to evade our efforts to see her young.

The African wild dogs were to reveal themselves before we had even left the camp on one particular misty morning.

We enjoyed some unusual behavior from three very large lions, and still managed to spot the two cheetah brothers.

All in all a good week here at MalaMala.

For the number crunchers:

  • Number of lion sightings: 17
  • Number of leopard sightings: 22
  • Number of cheetah sightings: 3
  • Number of wild dog sightings: 1
  • Number of elephant sightings: 46
  • Number of buffalo sightings: 13

*Rhino sightings currently unavailable.

Don’t forget that you can always refer to the Wildlife Sightings Maps for a more detailed look at what was seen where.

Happy virtual safari folks!

Leopards

This week we enjoyed some fantastic leopard sightings. The Airstrip Male was seen on a few occasions, each time moving about in the determined fashion that we have come to associate with him. From the rocky outcrop of Stwise, to the Mlowathi and Matshipiri Rivers, to his familiar haunts around the airstrip, he was seen far and wide and continues to impress us with the great distances he covers.

Airstrip Male Leopard, by Matt Meyer

Airstrip Male Leopard, by Matt Meyer

The Son of the Sparta Female 2005 was seen around the Emsagwen Waterhole, also on a bout of territorial patrol. We followed him in the bright illumination of the full moon. Some impalas came perilously close to his path, but he clearly had a plan to stick to and gave the antelope no notice. It is truly a spectacle to see him scent marking and roaring aggressively. It would seem that he has firm control of his territory, and we hope to see more of him.

One of the highlights of the week was when the Bicycle Crossing Male graced us with his presence. Sightings of this large, but ageing, specimen have become increasingly scarce since he has shifted his territory in response to pressure from his son, the Airstrip Male. On the morning of the 5th May, an alert ranger found a drag mark across the road near Rattray’s Camp (typical of a leopard’s movements when stashing a kill). It did not take long for us to find The Bicycle Crossing Male – he had killed a male impala and was resting beside it. As nightfall approached, he wisely considered the threat from hyenas and lions and looked for a suitable tree nearby in which to hoist his meal. He soon settled on a large Natal mahogany (Trichilia emetica) at the Flockfield Boma river crossing. He dragged the impala carcass some fifty metres before lifting it into the safety of the tree. This he did in one swift movement in an awesome display of sheer power and skill. All the more impressive considering the carcass would be nearly double his weight! Interestingly enough, we have seen the Bicycle Crossing Male in this tree on a number of occasions. Leopards often have a few of these types of trees within their territories that they like to make use of. We watched him over the days that followed as he fed on his prize.

Male Impala, by Matt Meyer

Male Impala, by Matt Meyer

The Kikilezi Female had another good week, and we saw her on three occasions. Once again she managed to keep the hiding spot of her suspected cubs to herself. It is only a matter of time before we hopefully get a glimpse of her new litter. We look forward to what is always a very special experience when that time comes. We are still sure that she is hiding the cubs somewhere in the lower reaches of the Mlowathi River. This is also the general area where she was seen during the week. In one instance she was found around West Street on a resolute territorial patrol. She covered ground that morning at great speed, roaring and scent marking as she went. We followed her as she crossed the Matshipiri River and moved to The White Cloth where she was eventually lost in an overgrown gully. This is the southernmost point of her impressive territory. Our suspicions of the location of her den site were further affirmed when she was seen the following day at the Mlowathi River again. She had undoubtedly felt the need to make a quick visit the previous day to reaffirm her boundary in the area.

Kikilezi Female Leopard, by Matt Meyer

Kikilezi Female Leopard, by Matt Meyer

Coincidently we also managed to find the Daughter of the Kikilezi Female at the Matshipiri open area. She was hunting some impala. She continues to be nomadic throughout her mother’s territory, and we can only hope that she manages to find her own niche somewhere close to home in the coming months.

We were excited when we managed to find the Matshipiri Female on the last day of the month moving about the Hogvaal Donga. We followed her excitedly in the hope of her leading us to her two cubs, both of which always provide excellent viewing. In a similar fashion to the Kikilezi Female, she managed to out-manoeuvre us.

Elephants, by Matt Meyer

Elephants, by Matt Meyer

Cape Hunting dogs give us an early wake-up

On the morning of the 5th May, we hardly had a chance to wake up before we were interrupted by some surprise visitors. A few of our guests had gathered on the deck at the Main Camp to enjoy an early morning coffee before leaving for the game drive. A pair of eagle eyes spotted some shapes running along the banks of the Sand River in front of the camp. Upon closer inspection, the shapes were found to be none other than the familiar pack of nine Cape hunting dogs. We raced to the Land Rovers to get a closer look. The dogs had full bellies, but were still moving at a fast pace. They were followed for much of the morning until they were lost in bush willow woodland with few road networks around the Emsagwen.

Cape Hunting Dogs, by Matt Meyer

Cape Hunting Dogs, by Matt Meyer

We were also fortunate to enjoy two sightings of the cheetah brothers at Clarendon Dam. Both were relatively brief encounters, but nonetheless gave some of our lucky guests the chance to complete their goal of seeing the MalaMala Seven (the Big5, plus cheetah and wild dog).

Male Cheetah, by Matt Meyer

Male Cheetah, by Matt Meyer

Lions

Feeling somewhat cheated after a morning drive after tracks of a number of male lions had led us to a dead end, the afternoon drive was eagerly anticipated by both guests and rangers alike. The challenge was on (and we do love a challenge….) As the sun began its’ descent the nightjars began to call, the tides turned in our favour. Not one, but three of the Manyelethi male lions came jogging down a game path. They appeared to be returning home with what some would say were slight grins on their faces. What a great sighting this turned out to be as the three companions reaffirmed their bonds, evidenced through their head rubbing and playful antics as they stalked one another in the moonlight. What topped it all off was their intermittent roaring as they reminded other would-be adversaries of their ferocious presence, and their standing as the true kings of MalaMala.

Manyelethi Male Lion, by Matt Meyer

Manyelethi Male Lion, by Matt Meyer

Until next time,

The MalaMala Ranger Team.

Click here to download the CyberDiary in PDF format.

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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