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A Week of Leaps of Leopards in Photos

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Another week of 2021 has come and gone, and can you believe we are already in March?!! The weather doesn’t seem to have missed a beat, and no sooner had the calendar pages for the last official day of summer been ripped off,  a distinctively autumnal feeling descended on the bush – cool, misty mornings, clear blue, cloudless skies, and even the grasses looking a little less green. While we had no rain of note reported this week, it was a cool and cloudy weekend with scattered drizzles falling across the Timbavati. However, it ended with typically warm, sunny autumn days that still cooled down wonderfully at night making this a stunning time of the year to visit the Greater Kruger.

As far as sightings go, it was a week with some lovely cat viewing, especially from our mother leopards and their young.  Nyeleti was seen desperately searching for Xigodo one morning as she sought to take him back to her most recent kill, which in the interim had attracted a nervous young male leopard.  Fortunately, the next day both Nyeleti and Xigodo were found feasting on the last remains of their kill as the hyenas waited patiently below.  We stayed with them as they headed away from the area, revelling in the moments spent with this mother and her almost-independent son.

A couple of days later, Scotch and Jack followed a drag mark for close to a kilometre to locate on Thumbela and her 5-month-old son with their impala kill.  The next morning the boy managed to dislodge the kill, but Thumbela was alert to the presence of a hyena and managed to get the kill up the tree once again in a flash before descending to make sure that the hyena stayed away from her cub.  Once the message had been received loud and clear, Thumbela stood on tree trunk watching the hyena when the impala carcass suddenly flopped down from the tree and almost landed on top of the hyena!  As quick as Thumbela was in her efforts to retrieve the kill a second time, it wasn’t her lucky day.  Speaking of luck, it was with a tinge of sadness and a great deal of concern that – at the very same sighting – we learnt that the young boy has lost his right eye!  Exactly how it happened is open for debate, but possible scenarios include an exuberant rough and tumble with mom (although quite unlikely), or an unfortunate incident with a branch or a thorn?  Either way, the eye seems to have raptured and chatting to friends in the veterinary field, he will most certainly lose the eye.  Positively though, it doesn’t seem to be bothering him in any visible way, and not once did he rub or scratch it, and had no problem going up and down the trees, even when pressured by a hyena.  He looks to be a little fighter, and we hope to bring you more positive news on his successful growth into a young male leopard.  He is now very relaxed in the presence of the vehicles which is a real bonus for us.

This week also saw us catch up with Marula Jnr in the west, and Scotch also had a relaxed male leopard near Thumbela’s kill that he thought could possibly have been Xidulu?

On the lion front, it was a wonderful week seeing a few different prides within Tanda Tula’s concession. The River Pride held centre-stage and were seen several times with the single cub, as well as a number of sightings of the Nharhu males in their different groupings.  Sadly, the one male doesn’t seem to be recovering his condition, and it appears as though this may be more than a lack of food that is leading to his poor condition.  The new cubs haven’t been seen yet, and we are still none-the wiser as to where the den is, but I do now believe that it is in fact on Tanda Tula somewhere.  With the River Pride confined to the south-east, the two Balule lionesses and the Dundee male have made a few appearances in the north-west and central parts of our concession, including being found close to our bush breakfast last night.  The Dundee male is a beaut of a lion, and we are really hoping that this little pride can establish themselves in the north parts now that the River Pride seem less active there.  In addition to these new lions, we also had several sightings of the so-called Sarrk Breakaway Pride.  I found three members of the pride on the weekend in the far west (two lionesses and a young male), and a day later they were on the western boundary of Nkhari, pushing deeper into the Timabvati.  Earlier reports suggested that there were five members of this pride, but we are still waiting to see all of them.  The Giraffe Pride seems very settled in the far west at the moment, and with so many other lion sightings around, we didn’t venture to see them.

Another bonus for the week was a morning spent with the relaxed female cheetah.  My guests and I had stopped to look at a little brown bird when the nearby impalas went scattering and burst out in alarm calls all over the show, followed by a distinctive death-bellow.  We rushed to where the herd were standing, but found nothing besides some bewildered bucks.  Expanding our search, Glen and I both spotted her tawny shape popping out of the grass in the distance at the same time and made an approach to find her eating a young male impala lamb.  It turned out to be behind a bush about 80m from where we stopped to watch the birds!  Just proves that paying attention to the smaller creatures often leads to big game sightings!

The elephants were not as active in the area this week as they have been, but we enjoyed sightings of the big-tusked bull, a number of tiny babies, and daily sightings of these stunning animals.  The general game was good too, with a few large gatherings of zebras and big herds of wildebeest enjoying the open areas, and out giraffes also seemed to be more evident too this week.

On the bird front, we had some lovely sightings of a pair of lesser moorhens and their clutch of chicks.  The good rains have made for ideal breeding sites for these uncommon birds, and this provided me with my first viewing of this bird species in the Timbavati.  Although guides have reported them over the last couple of seasons, I have always missed them.  Luckily, this family looks like it will provide some good viewing for the coming weeks as the chicks grow quickly!

And as they say, that is that!  Trust you will enjoy this selection of photos, and be sure to check out our Facebook page for more images there.

Until next time, take care!

Cheers

Chad

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