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A Week of Wonderful Wild Dogs in Photos

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

I have a feeling that for the next few weeks, my blogs are all going to start the same: “Wow, this week was another hot one – even warmer than last week!”. This is based not only on what we experienced this week but also on what the forecast for the coming week is, including starting the week with forecasts of close to 40°C… let’s just say, it is going to be a hot summer.  Despite the rising heat, there isn’t any indication that we are expecting rain in the next while – yet even in the absence of the rain, the bush is slowly getting greener by the week as more and more of the giant trees start budding new leaves. With the dams and water points drying, the game is concentrating around those remaining waterholes and making for some great – and predictable – viewing around these hot spots on the hotter days.

In true form, the Giraffe Pride made a hasty retreat south as soon as I returned to game drive, but based on the tracks, they were visiting our concession regularly and Ginger and Given did well to track down three of the members one morning before they headed out of the area. Even truer to form, I finished off on my last drive for the cycle and who was found not too far from Tanda Tula Plains Camp? Eighteen members of the Giraffe Pride resting close to our bush breakfast spot, and for a change, they spent the entire day in the area – this clearly wouldn’t have happened if I was on a drive! The trackers did find evidence that the smallest cubs have also been moving with pride and crossing into our concession, so they will show themselves next week when I am on leave.

The Mayambula Pride were also out in almost-full force in the east and were located with 24 members present one morning; the only members missing on that occasion were the two Skorro males who were seen almost 14km to the north of the pride in an area they haven’t visited since they arrived in the area over a year ago. An apparent altercation with the River Pride just north of our concession may have led these males to pursue the pride north, which is not a good sign. Not only is this bad news for the River Pride’s younger members who wouldn’t be tolerated by the Skorro males should they want to take control of the pride (I can’t call it a pride takes over as the last remaining Nharu male doesn’t spend any time with them these days), but it is also not good news for the Mayambula Pride as if their dominant males get distracted so far to the north, they will leave a gaping hole for one of the younger coalitions to start moving in. So, let us just hope that this was a once-off journey north from our boys – who we did manage to see once this week when they were resting off fat bellies just east of Tanda Tula Safari Camp. There were no further signs of the white Birmingham male lion this week, but there was a brief visit from the limping Monwana male close to the Klaserie River, and reports were that he and the young Giraffe male made a buffalo kill just off our concession.

The leopard sightings were dispersed this week and included several individuals. The Pale-eyed male leopard was found with a warthog kill on the access road to Nkhari, but he seems to have returned to his old skittish ways again. The day before there was another large male leopard in that same area, so we are not sure who the warthog kill belonged to! Ntsongwaan abandoned his warthog kill at the start of the week and then disappeared. Neither Sunset nor Savannah showed face this week, but the unnamed leopard that lost her kill to a lioness a couple of weeks ago spent a couple of days with a steenbuck kill in the area, this following a sighting of her on our access road the evening before. In the east, Thumbela was once again reported to the north of our concession (very unusual for her!), but fortunately, she was seen with a kill, and the next afternoon she was found close to Machaton Dam and back in the heart of her territory. The long-lost N’weti was also reported close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp late one morning after the two Skorro male lions ran in and stole her kill. We haven’t seen this beauty for many months in the area, so it is good to know she is still around. Although our guides didn’t go see her, Nyeleti was also reported in the central regions on a couple of occasions during the week.

The predatory highlights of the week were however the two large packs of wild dogs that spent a good part of the week in the concession. The pack that had brought their pups into the area the previous week hung around, but it seems as though it wasn’t a good week for them. They have seemingly dropped from twelve to nine pups since returning to our area, and this could explain why they eventually moved back northwards to the mopane woodlands. Before they did though, they spoilt us with a few days of lovely viewing. When that pack moved out, we didn’t worry too much as the pack around Plains Camp was seen on the plains three times in the latter part of the week. On the first day, we only found three members, but a couple of days later we got treated to seeing no fewer than 22 members of the pack, including our first introduction to the ten pups that are now getting more and more mobile. I am sure that as they grow, they will spend more and more time in the Timbavati and give us more opportunities to enjoy their energetic antics.

Away from the predators, we enjoyed some lovely elephant sightings in the area this week getting to spend time with both groups of large bulls, as well as more family groups. On the hotter afternoons, it was almost guaranteed that you would find some elephants at the waterholes close to camp. The big buffalo herds were less cooperative and only showed themselves on two occasions in the west, whilst a smaller herd spent time in the central regions, and the large herd in the north only showed up once.

The general game remained very active in the west, and herds of wildebeest, zebras, impalas, and giraffes were found close to the waterholes and on the plains daily. Waterbuck also showed themselves on most drives, and for the first time in my guiding career, I had a guest ask to see a nyala. Firstly, most people don’t know what a nyala is, and secondly, they seldom appear on people’s wish lists…which is a bit of an injustice to the nyalas, as they are one of the most striking of all antelopes.

A highlight of the week for me was getting to see my first caracal around Plains Camp – a semi-relaxed individual not far from the camp found on our way home one evening. I had taken the road hoping that a pangolin would pitch up, but I was most happy with the caracal… I was however less happy when I heard that one of our staff had found a pangolin at the entrance to Plains Camp. Ginger drove past Hemut who told him that he had just seen a pangolin walk into the bush…unfortunately, both Ginger and Given thought they heard “porcupine”, so gave the area a cursory glance and drove into camp!!! When I passed Hemut a little while later, he even stopped us to make sure we knew he had seen a pangolin, but sadly despite walking around the area for a while, this scaled creature lived up to its elusive reputation. The good news is that it is the second time in a few weeks that we have seen a pangolin in the area, so hopefully, a few more sightings to come over the coming months.

I am heading off for a week’s break, so will leave the next update to Tristan, so be sure to check back again next Monday.
Have a great week, and until next time, cheers.

Chad

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