So, a little over a week has passed since the unexpected arrival of the two new Skorro male lions into the central Timabvati. And while a dark cloud is still hanging over the future of the River Pride, the past week has been a comparatively peaceful one, but I still fear that this is just the calm before the inevitable storm. On the weather front, things were a little less calm, two windy cold-fronts hitting this part of the Greater Kruger over the past few days meant that our temperatures see-sawed dramatically from highs in the early-30s one day to bitterly cold and blustery weather the next. This pattern played itself out twice within four days, leaving our bodies very confused as to exactly which season, we were in.
As mentioned, the lion dynamics remained fairly calm this week even with the new Skorro males hanging around. Their tracks were seen criss-crossing the Tanda Tula concession most days as they explore their new surrounds. Early in the week, this wandering brought them into contact with the Mayambula lionesses, and we found three lionesses throwing themselves at one of the Skorro males after a day’s worth of tracking. Interestingly, they were found mating in the very same place that we saw the Mayambula’s mating with Nharhu males only two weeks ago!
At first, I thought that this was the first meeting between these males and the Mayambula Pride. Reflecting on the situation, I began to suspect that they had met up before to the East of our concession where we had been hearing reports of the Mayambula Pride moving around before their return. Either way, the lionesses seemed only too happy to have these males in the area, and the next day a mating pair was again found in the area, but this time with two other interested parties. The first was a collection of six Mayambula lionesses, including the younger females born at the end of 2018. More surprisingly was a report of the limping Nharhu male being seen near to the mating lions. I however have yet to see images of this and do suspect that it was merely a case of mistaken identity. It would be particularly unusual for an injured male lion to be hanging around so close to the lions that are out to get him.
Later in the week the roars of the limping male close to Tanda Tula Field Camp brought the Skorro males into the area, at which point the Nharhu male seemed to move out of the area as the roars of the Skorro males got closer. The Mayambula Pride spent some time in the area but proved themselves to be quite elusive; towards the end of the week, we heard that they killed a buffalo just North of our concession in an area that they have not been known to frequent before. Perhaps they will start pushing deeper into our concession as the roars of the Nharhu males fade into a distant memory.
The River Pride managed to stay out of trouble this past week, although a report of one of the lionesses limping very badly led to some specualtion that the Skorro males had already begun their pursuit of the pride. It appears to be a paw injury more-likely originating from a hunting incident, but by the end of the week the lioness was able to at least put some pressure on her paw. The pride had a wildebeest kill early in the week, but then disappeared to the North before returning a couple of days later. We were able to catch up with the lionesses and cubs not too far from Nkhari Homestead, all looking in good shape. With the Skorro males being distracted by the Mayambula Pride, perhaps there may be a glimmer of hope for the River Pride to avoid trouble, but at this point, it is a very, very faint light.
Three of the Giraffe lionesses and the young Giraffe male were seen on a few occasions in the West this week and provided for the best lion sighting of late. It appeared that the lionesses had caught a wildebeest but after a lot of persistence they were pushed off by a large clan of hyenas. The commotion brought the young male to the scene, and he succeeded in claiming back the scant remains of the wildebeest as no fewer than 18 hyenas did their best to push him off, but it was all to no avail. The sounds accompanying this deadly game of chess were quite something to witness.
On the leopard-front, the windy weather did provide for some ideal hunting conditions and after the first night of wind, four different leopard kills were found; Nyeleti had a steenbuck, Xigodo an impala (that kept him there for three days) and the pale-eyed male also got an impala (his skittish nature precluded any good viewing though). Scotch found N’weti shortly after she had caught an impala, but in typical N’weti-fashion, she dragged the kill into the thickest of thickets and that was the end of that sighting! Luckily the Xigodo sighting provided great viewing for us, and it was very interesting to see how Nyeleti eventually pitched up at the kill and managed to get a reward for all of the meals she had provided for him over the years. She did spend a large amount of time growling and snarling at Xigodo after the hyenas chased him into the same tree as her.
The week was full of elephants, and we got to see multiple herds daily, with some groupings numbering close to a hundred members. The downside to so many elephants in the late winter is that we do start seeing more destructive feeding behaviour in the area, and with the knobthorn trees starting to flower so early this year, we are seeing some large knobthorns being ring-barked as the elephants attempt to satisfy their mammoth appetites. The two buffalo herds popped into the area a couple of times but were not nearly as present as the week before. That said, buffalos were a daily feature in our sightings with one group of bulls remaining permanently around the camp.
Some other interesting sightings concluded our viewing this week: Scotch’s daytime sighting of a relatively relaxed aardvark was hard to beat, but I spent quite a bit of time with a mother and young honey badger as she dug several feet into the earth next to the road in search of an unidentified rodent that she promptly gave to the youngster before the two trotted off. Less welcome was the sight of our two camp honey badgers grabbing and dispatching of a newborn baby bushbuck in camp just before dinner one evening! The poor bushbuck appeared to have been abandoned by its mother for some reason, and whilst it sat in a thicket waiting for the mom to return, the badgers found it and wasted no time in scripting the end to the story that we were all worried about. Another interesting sighting for me was the presence of two Cape glossy starlings that spent the week scavenging off Xigodo’s impala kill. Just goes to show, one never knows what to expect whilst out on safari.
Oh yes, and we saw the two male cheetahs at the start of the week. It shows it was a good week if these rare cats were merely an afterthought.
I trust you enjoyed this blog – be sure to check out our Facebook page for more images, but until next time, stay safe.
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