Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures
It is Monday, so that means that it’s time to take a few minutes for yourself and catch up on what has been going on at Tanda Tula over the past week. It was another dry week out here, and with the warm sun shining most days, the bush dried up enough to allow us to resume our off-road driving in areas that were no longer sensitive – that being said, the river beds are still flowing gently, and water continues to seep out of the ground along the seep lines on the mid slopes for the sixth straight week in a row. I think the last time this happened must have been after the large floods of 2012. This ability to drive off-road did allow us to enjoy a few sightings that would have been a touch more difficult during the wetter periods, but it was once again interesting to see how the animals continued to walk on the roads, and our main access road was once again a hive of activity this past week, with several lions, wild dog, and leopard sightings being ticked off along its route.
Despite an all-around good week of game viewing, the week belonged to the wild dogs. We once again enjoyed sightings of three different packs of wild dogs in the area. The small pack of four was seen on two occasions, and on both instances, we got to see them feeding on impala kills (the first being at the start of the week when we couldn’t drive off-road just yet, so we could only see them feeding in the long grass, but the second was a much better sighting). The bigger pack of 23 members showed up again at the end of the week, and this time they made it onto the plains in front of Plains Camp. With so many mouths to feed, it was not a surprise that we saw this pack feeding on three different kills over the space of a couple of drives. On one afternoon the pack had chased an impala into Sunset Dam and were trying to get to it when other members of the pack caught an impala a couple of hundred meters away from the dam – we heard the unmistakable below of the impala as it got caught and together with the dogs around the dam, rushed off to see what was happening. By the time we got there (only about 2-3 minutes later), the kill was already almost done. Before it was finished, the pack had run off back to the dam where other pack members had caught another impala. This was a bigger individual and lasted a little longer before it got dark and we left them to it. The next morning we tracked them down and went on to wait on the plains knowing that they would eventually come to hunt there, and sure enough, we got to see them as they chased a large herd of impalas across the plains. Without us even hearing it, a couple of dogs managed to grab a young male impala about 80m behind us, and the pack came running back to share in the spoils. I think the impalas will be much happier when these wild dogs move off.
Sadly, it wasn’t all great news for the wild dogs this week, and the pack of 17 members lost one of their pack when they encountered the Giraffe Pride one evening and the lions wasted no time in setting off after the dogs and unfortunately catching and killing one. That pack headed straight back south to their usual home range and didn’t return.
As for the Giraffe Pride, they too were quite cooperative this week. After starting the week on the plains the pride crossed into the Klaserie – a rare voyage for them, but they didn’t get more than 100m in and we could see them from the boundary. It was that evening that they returned and killed the wild dog. The next day we found three of the young pride males in the same area, and a day later we picked up on them still looking for the pride. By the end of the week, all 25 members were back together and spent another two days on the plains. Although we didn’t see them on any kills, for three days in a row we could see that they had eaten. The males put on a great roaring display for us one evening, and it was encouraging to see that even in his poor condition, the Sumatra male is not scared to proclaim his dominance.
The week ended with one of the young males having once more gotten separated from the pride. The Sark Breakaway Pride also made a welcome return to the west this week and three members were seen feeding on a waterbuck one evening. The next day all four lionesses, the five subadults and two of the Vuyela males were together in our western sections. We saw these two Vuyela males one morning marching down our access road causing quite a traffic jam; we opted not to spend time there and got to see two other Vuyela males in the east on our journey there in search of cheetahs. These same two males had been spending a great deal of time with the three River Pride members. It seems as though these girls are bringing these males back into the area that they used to use as their territory when they were with the Nharhu males. This push from the River Pride and the roars of the Vuyela males are keeping the Mayambula Pride in the southern reaches of their territory, and generally just beyond our concession. It will be interesting to see how these dynamics unfold over the coming months.
The leopards were also reasonably good this week, and I saw five different individuals in the west and central regions. The Mvuvu female and her daughter had an impala kill on the plains one day, and whilst the youngster was very nervous during the day, once the sun set she was a little bit better, and mom was most relaxed. We watched them resting around the kill but left before it got too dark.
On another evening, we bumped into Savannah’s young male stalking impala just in front of Plains Camp, and we also had a sighting of Sunset females spending the morning up a tree in the west. On a trip east to see Nyeleti and her daughter with a kill, we received word that the other daughter was sitting up a tree right at Tanda Tula Safari Camp, so went to spend some time with her before she walked off into the darkness. It was great to see that even without her mom, she was very relaxed. Dale also bumped into Nyeleti walking around close to Safari Camp one evening.
Predators aside, we enjoyed a week of some lovely big elephant bulls around Plains Camp. The breeding herds seem to be much more active around Safari Camp, but we did have several sightings of herds around the plains. The group of buffalo bulls continued to hang around there too until the Giraffe Pride tried to hunt them, and they ran off and haven’t been seen since. Fortunately, a herd of a few hundred members did pitch up close to Plains Camp as the week drew to a close.
This week we welcomed both a young zebra foal and a brand new wildebeest calf to the herds on the plains, and I also saw a baby impala that couldn’t have been more than a week or two old; and now that I think about it, we saw a days-old giraffe calf this week too – some of the many reasons to love summer in the Greater Kruger.
On the bird front, we got to see a secretary bird that has set up base on a small clearing east of Plains Camp – I am sure it won’t be long before it moves onto the plains themselves. We got to see the ground hornbill fledgling walking around with the adults too, which means that his/her exit from the nest went well. I also saw a pair of red-billed teals; something I haven’t seen around Plains Camp before.
So, as you can see, it was a rather enjoyable week out here! Have a good one on that side, and check back again next week to see what our animals have been getting up to!
Until next time, cheers!
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