And just like that the autumn equinox (well, at least the southern hemisphere’s autumn equinox) has come and gone; the 21st of March marked the period where the amount of daylight and nighttime were equal across the world. For those in the northern hemisphere, this is great news for you as your days are getting longer while you move into summer, but for us a little south of the equator, our days are beginning to shorten as winter approaches. Although the mornings and evenings have a distinct autumn-chill to them, the daytime temperatures are still warm to hot, with yesterday’s max peaking at around 35°C. The skies were clear after last week’s drizzly weather, but we are expecting some nice rains over the coming weekend – we will just have to see if they materialise! As for our game viewing, it continued to be rather good out there with some wonderful viewing over the past week.
The leopards have been a bit scarce over the past few weeks, but they were on display a little more readily this week. We started with Thumbela being found on a kill in the eastern sections, and despite walking around calling, her son never showed up. It cannot be long before she pushes him off into independence and we are hoping that despite her age (just over 13 years old now) she will have one more litter. Nyeleti female was seen a few times this week, with one sighting having four leopards around a waterbuck calf that she killed! Nyeleti had both of her growing cubs present, but feeling a little left out, her previous son (Xigodo) pitched up for a free meal. Nyeleti conceded defeat and didn’t chase him off but spent the sighting hissing and snarling at him.
Xigodo seems to have picked up quite an injury and is evidently missing one of his hind toes! The injury looks relatively old, and although limping a little, doesn’t seem to be showing too many negative effects from the injury (at least we will be able to easily recognise his tracks now!). Closer to home, Sunset female was found resting near one of the dams in the west one morning, and her daughter was seen in the same area that afternoon. We also came across a decent sized male leopard on our access road on the way back to camp one evening. The most encouraging sighting was of the young Mbilo leopardess who took advantage of the panic caused by a pack of wild dogs and caught herself a massive male impala late one evening. She fed on it in the spot she caught it, but despite later dragging it into a thicket, the resident hyenas on the plains found her that night and stole the kill. She was reasonably relaxed, and we hope to see more of her growing in confidence over the coming months.
The not-so-spotted cats also showed themselves this week, with members of four prides being seen over the past few days. Last week I mentioned that it was the Sark lionesses that had given birth to a new litter of cubs, but upon seeing the Ross and Hercules females this week, we realised that it was indeed the Ross female that had given birth. The Hercules lioness was also lactating, but her teats were clean and didn’t appear to have been suckled upon recently, so we are not sure if she still has cubs. The error of identification came in the fact that the Ross female gave birth in an area very close to Sark Breakaway territory. It will be interesting to see if she moves the cubs to the Zebenine Riverbed over the coming weeks, and just how much time the Vuyela males spend with them. That being said, we did also come across a young lioness resting in the Zebenine Riverbed near Nkhari Homestead one afternoon, and I am pretty sure she is from the Sark Pride, so they too seem to be moving around a little more. The River Pride spent only one day in the northern part of our concession, but the Mayambula Pride provided almost daily viewing. The great news is that one of the younger lionesses also gave birth in the last week or so, and her cubs could be heard calling in the Machaton riverbed south of the other cubs’ den site. The eight little ones started the week feasting on a wildebeest before making themselves a little difficult to find by spending time in some dense parts of the Machaton Riverbed. We managed a short sighting of them when they popped out of the riverbed whilst we were watching the two Skorro males one evening, and it is impressive to see how quickly they are growing! The Giraffe Pride had yet another week of absenteeism, although we could hear them roaring to the south of our concession on a number of occasions.
We got spoilt for a day when we found a pack of 30-odd wild dogs on our access road as they made their way towards the plains close to Plains Camp. We had seen them on our way home the night before, so decided to head out early the next morning to track them down; fortunately, they are creatures of habit and we found them running along our access road as we had expected. They eventually settled on the plains and we returned in the afternoon to watch them in action, but for once they were not overly active and other than a half-hearted attempt at some impalas and a warthog, they didn’t have any hunting intentions. Their presence did chase an impala into the nearby Mbilo leopardess, so that was a welcome consolation to later find her with the kill.
Elephants were not overly active this week, with only a few groups being seen in the east, and the odd group around Nkhari. Further east, we didn’t have any luck with them, but we still managed almost daily sightings of these entertaining animals. The elephant viewing should start improving as the winter approaches and the natural pans dry up. The buffalos this week were only represented by a few bulls in the area, particularly those dagga boys hanging out on the Klaserie River.
Other than that, we enjoyed the usual abundance of plains game around camp, with a couple of new born zebras even showing themselves. Our hyena den also continued to produce great sightings, especially on those mornings when the warthog family has to leave the same den site and the hyenas chase after them!
For now, though, that is a wrap! We have a very busy weekend ahead and look forward to welcoming back many familiar faces. Be sure to check back next week to see just what we all got to see! Until then, stay safe!
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