Cyberdiary – 12 June 2012

Journey of Giraffe by Matt Meyer

Journey of Giraffe by Matt Meyer

What a cracker of a week!
The lions, not as abundant over the last seven days, have given the other smaller carnivores right of way. We have enjoyed some great leopard sightings, illuminated under the full moon. We have also recorded the highest number of Cape hunting dog sightings in recent memory, with at least one every day of the week. A dead giraffe on Charleston has provided fantastic vulture and hyena activity, and an elephant carcass in the central Matshipiri region has yielded epic hyena and leopard interactions. The cheetah brothers were up at Clarendon on two occasions. And lets not forget the two male ostriches fluffing up their tail feathers in the vicinity too.

Devastating news for our lion enthusiasts. News has reached us that the one orphaned 8-month old cub of the Eyrefield pride has been killed by other lions at a kill on a neighbouring property. We noticed that the pride was one cub short two days ago, and although we feared the worst we hoped that the youngster would appear again soon. Our fears were unfortunately confirmed yesterday when news reached us of its untimely demise. We will report further feedback in due course.

Digi-fans, here are the numbers:

*Rhino sightings currently unavailable.

Have a look at the Wildlife Sightings Maps for a more detailed look at what was seen where.

Our rangers are very busy at the moment burning the essential fire breaks which prevent rampant wildfires from wreaking havoc through the property over the dry winter season. Hence the slightly shorter Cyberdiary this week.

May you enjoy your virtual safari as much as we enjoyed living it.

Daughter of the Kikilezi Female Leopard in the light of the full moon, by Matt Meyer

Daughter of the Kikilezi Female Leopard in the light of the full moon, by Matt Meyer

Cape Hunting Dogs

What with the discovery of the den site in southwestern Charleston last week, we all thought it couldn’t get any better. Low and behold, we were proven wrong. On the 5th June, a few rangers set out to follow up on the den site. When they arrived there was a single female dog – the one we believe to be the lactating alpha female. A short while later, seven other dogs were found around the zebra skull on the Charleston-Flockfield boundary.

Cape Hunting Dogs, by Matt Meyer

Cape Hunting Dogs, by Matt Meyer

The composition of this pack – one adult female, two adult males and four pups of about a year old – was cause for confusion as no-one had seen the youngsters in the pack before. Confusion was further heightened when four more dogs arrived at the den itself. And so it came to pass that we found not eight, as originally identified, but eleven dogs belonging to the new pack which has chosen to den on the property. The prospect of two independent packs of Cape hunting dogs on MalaMala at the same time is implausible considering the rarity of these predators (we had less than 10 sightings for the entire year of 2010).

The dogs that arrived at the den were well fed, and regurgitated meat for those left behind during the hunt. The ritual of regurgitation and the action that ensues is fascinating to watch. The unfed babysitters become begging blurs of patches and squeaks as they try to get as much meat out of the hunters as possible. They will often bite each other as a sign of encouragement for more food. The alpha female will then go back down into the den, by herself, and further regurgitate for the pups at this early stage of their lives. Within the next week or so, the pups should come out of the den for their first glimpse of the outside world. At this point they too will contribute to the riotous cacophony of noise of the begging Cape hunting dog fraternity.

In the interim, the other seven dogs were starting to get active … another spectacle all together. The youngsters become restless when they are hungry and begin to annoy the older dogs. They jump around frenetically, biting the adults, chewing on sticks and just generally being pests until the adults can take no more. It is at this point that they will choose to run after an impala or steenbok as a much better alternative to enduring the relentless abuse of the youngsters.

Cape Hunting Dogs, by Matt Meyer

Cape Hunting Dogs, by Matt Meyer

The dogs began to trot westwards, away from the zebra skull. After a few hundreds meters they picked up on a scent, and veered in a northerly direction. When they reached the Mamba Waterhole area, one of the adults flattened its ears and dropped closer to the ground – a sure sign of prey ahead. The snort of an impala was all they needed for their predatory dog instincts to kick in, sending them off like rockets to space.

The impala darted into a field of long grass, and the pandemonium that followed was typical of a Cape hunting dog ambush. The haphazard dashing around is actually a technique that the dogs use to confuse their prey. This habit, to which impala have become accustomed, causes the antelope to ‘stot’. Stotting is where the buck will jump backwards and forwards mid-sprint, thus turning their hooves into backward facing spears which the dogs will avoid at all cost.

The predators then disappeared and the impala had just begun to relax when, all of a sudden, a flash of black, cream and white darted through the middle of the herd. And so they were off again. Barely able to keep up with the dogs and impala, rangers and guests were just about to give up pursuit when a concentrated haze of dust ahead gave away the location of a freshly made kill. An adult dog had caught a yearling impala, and three of the youngsters – followed by three of the other dogs – had begun to feed. It took short of seven minutes for the impala to be reduced to skin and bone. It was now near dark, and the predators were left to themselves sleeping in the open area of Tjololo Road.

This same group of seven dogs was seen the very next day in the same area near the zebra skull. They were left running in a southerly direction towards Charleston Koppies.

Cape Hunting Dogs, by Matt Meyer

Cape Hunting Dogs, by Matt Meyer

On the 8th June, the canines were found along Emsagwen, and were left moving north. We will be keeping a very careful eye on this group of seven dogs over the next few weeks.

The remaining pack, which we know to be denning, was found on the eastern bank of the Sand River on the 9th of June with a bushbuck kill. It was just before dark, and they were left to themselves feeding furiously into the night.

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.

3 thoughts on “Cyberdiary – 12 June 2012

  1. Thank you Syl. It is always our pleasure to bring the news to our virtual community, although it is not always happy news.

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