Leopard at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking
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A Week of Settling Down

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Hello again, and welcome back to this week’s blog from the heart of the Timbavati. It’s great to be back in action again after a very enjoyable holiday.  The weather has been warming up slightly of late, but the cold fronts that blow through on a weekly basis have done their bit to break the warm cycles.  We are still waiting patiently for them to bring the first dust-quelling rains of the season. 

 I was not out on too many drives during this period, but catching up with the guides, it seems as though things are settling down in the lion dynamics. The two Skorro males have made themselves very much at home with the seven Mayambula lionesses.  The pride was seen on a couple of zebra kills over this period in the central regions of our concession.  Interestingly, the seven lionesses were also reported some distance into the Klaserie to the west of the Timbavati during this week, but the next day they were back on the Timbavati’s eastern boundary with the Kruger – this movement would have required a complete leap-frog of the River Pride’s territory!  Even upon my return, I got to see four of the Mayamabula lionesses resting close to Nkhari Homestead, and right in the centre of what had up until then been the River Pride’s safe-place.  That same afternoon the limping Nharhu male was resting about 2km away from them, but it doesn’t appear as if he encountered them during the night.   

Mayambula lioness at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking
 

Nharhu male at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

The River Pride have been AWOL for the past week, but just prior to that they too had a zebra kill to the north of Tanda Tula Safari Camp. While I was away, they were also found to the north of our concession on the annual buffalo kill!  For such a good hunting force, it always surprised me that they don’t hunt more buffalos. This is only the third adult buffalo kill that we have seen them with since they separated from the young males two years back.  It does appear that after this buffalo kill the River Pride headed west towards the Klaserie, but there is only so far west they can go before they bump into the five Vuyela males and the Sark lionesses, so I do hope that the River Pride return sooner rather than later.   

 The week ended off with the two Skorro males spending their time mating with a couple of Mayambula lionesses.  If things settle down, we can hopefully expect some new cubs early in 2022.  Interestingly, with the Skorro males being so far south, the Western Pride of lions have even started to venture into our concession for the first time in a long time (the Skorro males are the fathers of their cubs, and dominant males of their pride). Sadly though, up until now we have only seen their tracks, and not the lions themselves. 

Skorro male and Mayambula lioness at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

Nyeleti leopardess at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

The leopards have been fairly decent, and in the few days I was on drive I got to see Nyeleti and Xigodo with a duiker kill (he seems to have pitched up and stolen the kill that mom made, so no love lost there!), as well as N’weti with an impala kill.  She is still lactating and left her kill a few times to head north of our concession to suckle her new litter.  It will be interesting to see where she chooses to raise the cub(s), but we are still a few months away from getting our first sighting of them.  The pale-eyed male leopard is still around, and seems to be getting slightly more confident with the vehicles, so maybe our cautious, considerate approach to viewing him is starting to pay off? 

Leopard resting at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

The wild dogs have been around on a few occasions over the past weeks, but this time it is a small splinter pack of five males that have been criss-crossing the concession.  Our “regular” pack are still biding their time with the pups in the dense mopane woodlands of the northern and eastern Timbavati and have not started moving into our concession as I had predicted.  I still believe that it won’t be long before they make a welcome return, with the young ones in tow! 

The megaherbivores have been very active over this period too, with two herds of buffalo and innumerable elephants making themselves at home around Tanda Tula.  The buffalos have been an almost permanent fixture for the weeks that were, and we have all commented on just how many elephants have been seen in the central Timbavati of late, with one herd even being bold enough to break into camp one evening to come and feed on the trees around my house.   

Kudu eating dwarf bush cherries at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

As September ticks on, we will start seeing more and more migratory birds arriving, but we have already seen yellow-billed kites and the first Wahlberg’s eagles arriving back to breed.  The Cassia’s are in full bloom and being followed closely by the tree wistarias (Bolusanthus speciosus), the dwarf bush-cherries (Maerua parvifolia) and the bushwillows (Combretum species) giving us a taste of things to come as the trees and hidden flowers wait for the first rains to fall.  For now, though, we have to wait at least another week to see if they come! 

I will be out on drive for a longer period over the coming week, so be sure to check back next Friday to see some more images from Tanda Tula.  Until then, take care and stay safe! 

Cheers 

Chad 

Hamerkop at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

Flowering Cassia at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

Hippo at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

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