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A week of feasting cats in pictures

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

I have come to the end of another wonderful six-week work cycle. Once again, the past seven days offered fantastic game viewing for the guests at Tanda Tula Safari Camp. Following my last blog, I am sure that there is one question on everyone’s mind; has there been any sign of Marula? Sadly, the answer is a big NO, and with each passing week, the chances of us seeing her alive again diminish greatly.

As difficult as this realisation might be for us to accept, it serves as a reminder that we follow animals in a wild, natural environment that is scripted by mother nature herself. Sometimes her stories have happy endings, other times, less so. Whatever the outcome of this scenario, we can be sure that nature will make a plan to replace this once special cat. For now, all we can hope for is that her two youngsters can fight the odds and make it to adulthood. For those that were also concerned about the flowering Knobthorns, unfortunately the answer is also negative, and there are still no flowers! Hopefully when I get back in a few weeks’ time, I shall be greeted by a flowery Timbavati.

As for other news, our lions again had a great week. The Mayambula Pride slowly moved back to the western parts of their territory, after spending the first part of the week in the east. A wildebeest kill was followed by an incredible scene of finding the fourteen-strong lion pride feasting on a buffalo cow they killed in the middle of a mud wallow! To see all of these lions covered in mud was a sight I shall never forget. After the lions finished off with their share of the kill, a clan of over a dozen hyenas moved in to finish off the scraps. Days later, clumps of mud could still be seen covering the feet and legs of all the lions.

The Mbiri males were absent for all but the last day of the week, and their whereabouts leave some room for speculation. My personal theory is that they may have been off mating with the older lioness from the River Pride. This assumption is based on the smaller Mbiri male’s behaviour last week. The fact that the Mbiri males were once again tracked hot on the heels of the River Pride, and finally, when the River Pride did show themselves, they were missing one of their older lionesses. Perhaps she was off somewhere else, but I do believe that the Mbiri males might be trying to take control of the River Pride too. The smaller pride, the Zebenine lioness and her daughter, were seen several times this week, and appear to still be doing well. Out in the west, the Giraffe Pride and the Black Dam male made a brief appearance.

Despite Marula not being seen, we had a good week of leopard viewing with several cats seen feasting on kills. Thumbela was wandering all over the show and spent a couple of days on an impala kill not far from camp. At the same time, we also had Nyeleti female on an impala kill, as well as the Rothsay male feasting on a warthog, all within 3km of our camp. Nthombi was also found on a couple of occasions, once catching a scrub hare in front of the guests. The Rothsay male provided for a great sighting, and it was so wonderful to see this big male eventually becoming relaxed with the vehicles. Watching him feasting on a kill as the dusk turned to darkness was a sight to behold! Marula’s daughter was tracked down twice, but she still needs a lot of room to feel comfortable with the vehicles.

To round off a week of great cat viewing, our guests were treated to a stunning sighting of a relaxed male cheetah walking around the western parts of our concession yesterday morning – naturally, it would be a sighting that took place on one of the few days that I was not on drive!!!

With the lions moving west, a buffalo herd moved back into the central region of the concession to help our job of seeing the Big Five easier, but it was the elephants that made it the easiest! Big herds could be seen all across the concession and were also a daily sight in and around our camp’s waterhole. It was a delight watching a herd of over fifty of them descend upon Machaton Dam on a warm afternoon; but my favourite was having a ridiculously calm herd coming and feeding within a meter of my vehicle – a real privilege!

Despite the Knobthorns not flowering, we had a great week of giraffe viewing and these gentle giants were seen on each drive, spread across the reserve. The east still holds great grazing, and provided for lovely sightings of wildebeest and zebras, as well as a sighting of our five-legged impala!

I will be back in action in three weeks’ time, and look forward to what Luke and the team get to see and experience over this time.

Until next time!




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