It seems like we are ripping the pages off the calendar at an ever-increasing pace this year, and this week has just flown by…or, by the state of the weather outside at the moment, it has blown by! This morning saw our week of pleasant, warm weather coming to an abrupt end as a string of several days of windy conditions has settled in. At least I don’t mind sitting in bed typing this as a chilly wind gusts outside my house!
It seems as though our cats are enjoying their alternating presence in the central Timbavati once again, and this week saw our River Pride making themselves scarce whilst the leopards played along very nicely! We had daily sightings of these spotted beauties, with the sighting of the week belonging to the seldom seen Cleo leopardess. She is territorial within the Klaserie, but ventures into the Timbavati every-so-often; the last time we saw her she was on the boundary feasting on a porcupine kill she had hoisted up a marula tree. This time, she was once more on the boundary about 200m away from that spot and feasting on something even more unusual – a hyena! It was an odd sight to see, a leopard tucking into the remains of an adult hyena a mere 50m from the den site as some of the young hyenas lay about as if this was nothing unusual. Now, Cleo did not kill the hyena, and our reserve’s ecologist says that when he investigated the carcass when it was reported, he could see clear indications of where the hyena had been in a fight with another predator – whether it was lions or an internal dispute amongst its own clan members. Either way, the result was the same and as consummate scavengers themselves, this female leopard was not going to let a free meal pass her by and set about tucking into the unfortunate hyena. Xigodo also played along very nicely this week, largely since he spent three successive days in the same area, patiently waiting for Nyeleti to come and fetch him and take him to his next meal. He proved he can do it himself, if need be, and we watched him catch a slender mongoose one evening, but that was a mere morsel for a growing leopard, and he will soon have to prove himself on larger prey species as his mom pushes him into independence. She herself was found wandering around in all parts of her territory a couple of times this week. Thumbela and her son made a rare appearance towards the end of the week. She was reported near a private camp one afternoon, but despite following up on her tracks, I was unable to locate her. The next day, she was reported in the same spot, so we realised that she had a kill there, and this time we got to see her and her growing son in the Machaton riverbed. Sadly, the spot that they were in made it impossible to get any closer to where they were resting, so we settled on a slightly distant view of them. In addition to these sightings of our regulars, we also had three kills located; one of a slightly shy female in the far west; another belonged to the pale-eyed male (who was very viewable after dark); and the third was for a new, large and semi-relaxed male in the east. It proved to be a very good week of leopard viewing for us!
As for the lions, well they approached their movements like I approach a game of snooker, and it was a “calling all pockets” scenario where the pride wandered far and wide. After catching and consuming a wildebeest near Macro’s Dam, they moved towards Nkhari for a few days. They then pitched up in the far north-eastern corner, and it was such an unexpected distance to have moved that the guide that found them reported that it was an unknown pride (until they got up and moved, then she realised it was in fact the River Pride). A day later, Ginger and Jack were tracking a pride of lions in the south-western corner, and I was now the one thinking that they were tracking a “new” pride, but upon finding them, it was once again found to be the River Pride. Later in the week I was out getting photos for this Week in Pictures and managed to track the pride down but in a very uncooperative manner, they headed straight for the thickets on the banks of the Nhlaralumi. Luckily, we had a lovely sighting of them in the evening when they came out of hiding, but it was disconcerting to see that one of the youngest cubs had a bad limp on bot his back-right, and front left paws! This made him an easier target for his brothers that constantly bowled him over in their play – and could well be how he injured himself to begin with. Fortunately, the pride seems to be leaving the cubs behind when they go hunting, so this will give the little guy time to heal. An unknown male lion was also seen in close proximity to the River Pride when they pushed to the north-east, but I sadly wasn’t on drive to see him and ID him. And on another occasion, a distant visual of a lone lioness was had as she crossed the eastern boundary into Tanda Tula’s concession. Sadly she wasn’t located and as all the other River Pride members were in the west at that point, she must be from another pride…or possibly even the missing old female? Time will tell if we get more sightings of these new lions. The Sark breakaways were eventually reported again in the west, now with four lionesses and the young male, and the Giraffe Pride and Monwana male were also seen this week in the far west. So, it was far from a “bad” week of lion viewing, it was more the fact that the lions made us work hard for the sightings we did have.
The elephant sightings eased off a little this week, but some good-sized herds could still be seen daily across the area. The buffalo herd that had graced us with their presence last week moved back to the west, leaving only a handful of bulls in the main area, but we can only hope that with good grazing and water available this side, that the herd(s) start utilizing the area more. General game remained disappointingly quiet in the east but could be found further west in a trend that has persisted for over a month now.
Aside from that, we had a few nice sightings of rarer nocturnal creatures this week; caracal, civet, and the most relaxed genet I have seen in a long, long time all showed themselves after dark to make for another pleasant week of game viewing here at Tanda Tula Safari Camp.
For now though, that is it from me – be sure to also check out our Facebook page for more images!
Until next time, stay safe!
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