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A Week of Lapping Leopard in Photos

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Another week has come and gone, and although we are only a couple of weeks into spring, it is already starting to feel like summer is knocking on the door! The week was generally on the hotter side of “warm”, but as usual, this hot weather was pushed into our region as a cold front made an approach and we did have a couple of coolish days when the front arrived.

The last few natural pans have eventually succumbed to the heat and dried, leaving only the larger dams and pumped waterholes with water, and we could see the effect of this as more game started visiting the last remaining water points – and as you will see from the photos, we had a good week of viewing at these dams! The long-tailed cassia trees are filling the air with the fragrance of their sweet nectar as they too enter their second week of flowering, and they have been joined by the red bushwillow trees in flowering this season. The knobthorn trees are still dominating the landscape, but as more and more giraffes more into the area to feed on them, the flowers are getting increasingly concentrated on the upper reaches of these trees.

I forgot to mention that last week saw us seeing our first Wahlberg’s eagle arriving for their summer of breeding (the yellow billed kites were seen the week before), and the greater striped swallows have also joined the red-breasted swallows in the area; all this means that summer cannot be too far away!

Although we usually start with the lions, the leopards stole the show this week, so let us begin with them. After a slow week of leopard viewing, they made up for it this week. I got my first sighting of Savannah’s son, who is around 9 months old, and has grown so much. Despite limited exposure to game-viewing vehicles, he was quite unphased by our approach and surprisingly relaxed whilst sitting in a thicket waiting patiently for mom to return. A few days later Ginger and Given found Savannah leading the youngster to a fresh duiker kill just east of Plains Camp, and they spent the day in the area. Later that afternoon, I had a wonderful sighting of the pair after they had finished the kill and moved towards a nearby dam for a drink. I saw Ntsongwaan, our male leopard dragging his full belly towards a dam in the late afternoon for an evening drink. Whilst following this impressive male as he walked away from the dam, a family of warthogs came running past him and he wasted no time in dashing after one and successfully catching a big sow. Using his strength, he hoisted the kill into a nearby tree and was still around feeding on the carcass the next day. Sunset female was also found resting in the same area the next day to round off a good few days of leopard viewing.

Not to be outdone, the lion prides also played along very nicely this week, and yes, when I say “prides”, that does include the Giraffe Pride. We headed east one afternoon to spend some time with the Mayambula Pride after they were found sleeping near Tanda Tula Safari Camp with their fat bellies after a successful hunt the night before. Awaking the next morning, we could hear multiple lions roaring on the plains in front of Plains Camp, and excitedly headed off to find the majority of the Giraffe Pride ambling across the open area to the south; four lionesses, eleven sub-adults, and the two pride males – it was a wonderful sight.

A few days later a few members of the pride were also found a couple of hundred meters to the east of Plains Camp, with their blood-stained coats telling of another successful night of hunting. That same morning, the Mayambula Pride were found on a fresh buffalo bull kill close to Safari Camp, but with seventeen members present, they made short work of the kill and were done by the following morning. One of the single lionesses also managed to kill a wildebeest bull on her own near Machaton Dam, but as she was joined by the rest of the pride that night, the kill didn’t last long. This lioness then spent the next three days “mating”; I use the inverted commas as although there were reports of some mating taking place, she was not very interested in the two Skorro male lions that were following her and in my time spent with the pair, we only saw one half-hearted effort from the honeymooners.

The large buffalo herd spent the first half of the week moving around the waterpoints close to Plains Camp before crossing north into the Klaserie, leaving just a few buffalo bulls in the area. The elephant bulls also continued to show themselves near camp daily, with less elephant activity than we have come to expect. That may be because one of the groups of elephants that visited a dam in the west was counted at close to 150 individuals, and at the same time, there was another herd of close to 100 in the area of Machaton Dam in the east. It’s not uncommon for these herds to group together like this during winter, and to see so many elephants together is quite a sight.

Yet again there was good plains game in the area with drives having daily sightings of warthogs, zebras, giraffes, impalas, kudus, and zebras.

The hyena cubs continue to get bigger by the week, and all five cubs are still very active at the den site next to plains camp, but we also got to see some good hyena viewing across all areas of the concession.

That is it for our updates this week, so until next time, cheers!

Chad

 

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