The first migrant birds have returned bringing with them warmer days and much anticipation of the spring reawakening! Quality of wildlife sightings are peaking as vegetation is low, so to all our lucky guests pack some sunscreen and head for the Hills!
During early August she was roaming far and wide still spending much of her time in the east and only momentarily popping back to her core territory here at Leopard Hills to scent mark. We relished some wonderful displays of her distinctive sawing call as she announced her presence to all. This was not just for benefit of the other females but also for Xhinzele in particular and since he found her in the middle of the month they have been together for most of the last 2 weeks. We can finally confirm that they have copulated, unbeknown to Xhinzele she may already be pregnant with either Kashane’s or Ndlevane’s offspring though!
This means she has been confirmed to have mated with the 3 different males that overlap her territory, Xhinzele who owns the core of her territory, Ndlevane (Pronounced In-dlev-arn) just south of Leopard hills and Kashane in the east. So now we anxiously await the appearance of a bulge as she begins to check on her preferred den sites!
Most of his month has been spent in the north of his territory on the Sand river where he has been patrolling frequently on the southern bank! There has been a brief stand off between him and the Mashiabanje male south of the river, these two are sure to have a more serious tussle soon!
She has reappeared this month further in the north and west as she continues searching for a vacant territory somewhere between those of Metsi and Hlaba Nkunzi. It seems like there is less pressure from experienced territorial females in the south and east, why she doesn‘t’ settle there we don‘t know. Possibly other females putting pressure on her from the east towards Singita! See the map at the end of the report showing territories of females!
Metsi and cubs
Wonderful news is that the missing cub has reappeared during the month and is looking well. These youngsters are not tolerant of each other and the more relaxed one has chosen to hide out close to our lodge this month! They are both looking very skinny, finding the going very tough fending for themselves.
Metsi has already been seen mating with the Ndlevane male. This tough older rather shy male occupies the territory South West of Leopard Hills below that of Xhinzele. They were mating extremely frequently (20 times and hour), such a high frequency means she is probably at the end of her oestrus cycle and has possibly conceived already. See video highlights for mating footage.
The incumbent ruler of the east made a few appearances again this month and delighted us with his imposing presence, he is the biggest and most established territorial male in the west. He does roam a very large territory which stretches towards the middle of the Sabi Sands. He was observed mating with an unknown female in the south east during the month.
This young male (Almost 4 years) has been occupying the south west and seems to have taken up a territory down there. This means we currently have five territorial males in our traversing area of 10 000 hectares which is unusually high and territories are much smaller than usual since the departure of the Tegwaan male seven months ago.
Three of these are strong young males approaching their prime (three and a half to five years old). Something has to give soon and we will surely witness fierce interaction and possibly some combat between these powerful adversaries!
Holding true to their fierce reputation they managed to kill no less than 3 buffalo bulls “Daggaboys” during a month of plenty for themselves, the Ximungwe lionesses and their cubs. They have filled out their impressive physiques and are looking bulkier and tougher than ever. The highlight of the month was undoubtedly the morning the whole pride of 13 converged on Leopard Hills and were roaring from all directions.
See the classic video footage opening up this months video highlights of the intense competition amongst the pride over a young kudu they had just killed…the audio is incredible, turn up the volume! Watch out for an 8 month old cub somersault!
Let’s begin with some heartening news…one of the Ximungwe females that had no cubs has been briefly seen atop a koppie with 3 brand new tiny cubs, hopefully some images will follow shortly.
The dismal news is that one of the young 3 month old cubs has disappeared but the remaining young male has been readily staking his claim as part of the pride. He experienced his first buffalo kill during the month along with all the intense competition amongst the pride that accompanies a big kill! He is going to be one really tough little chap with the other four older young males (8 & 11 months old) to deal with!
Parades of Elephants are in abundance again this month especially along the Sand river, herd sizes have swelled as family groups converge on the plentiful food and water available there. See video highlights of a parade on the river.
We are privileged to consistently view a number of females with young calves currently as well as the odd sighting of the various dominant bulls patrolling. Crashes of sub adults are also commonly seen and sometimes number over five animals.
We are being spoilt with a large obstinancy of 500 hundred currently in our northern traversing area as well as a “smaller” herd of 200 in the south.
Our resident “Daggaboys” are one member short after the Mapogo killed one of the older bulls during the month. The remaining four are still a little edgy and we had a chuckle the day after they lost their companion when a warthog spooked them and these four 800kg brutes went hightailing it in the opposite direction! A smug looking male warthog stood proudly marvelling at his stature while the “Daggaboys” had flashbacks of 3 Mapogo’s in hot pursuit!
The unusual story and peculiar behaviour of the bull hippo with the adopted 8 month old calf continues. His constant grunting is still emanating from the waterhole close to the lodge in the early mornings and evenings and his prodigious dung splattering around the waterhole is very visible.
We laughed so hard the other day when we bumped into them on their way back to the waterhole and the bull had just been dung splattering with the little calf obediently following behind him…poor little chap covered in Hippo dung! Sure he is missing mom more everyday. See video highlights.
Painted Dog Pack
The pack is now stable at eleven dogs, five sub adult pups have survived which is a fantastic survival rate (62 % of the litter of 8). They wander onto our traversing area every week or so while on the hunt and it is always a delight to spend some time with a painted pack we have come to know so well!
In the last few days the new den site of the female with the two 6 month old male cubs has been discovered only one kilometre from where her previous termitaria was located! We can confirm that she is a low ranking female in the clan after we observed another female arrive at the den the other night and she behaved very submissively towards this younger female!
Everyday sightings have also been steadily increasing and we have enjoyed more frequent sightings on drive as well as nocturnal wooping cackling calls around the lodge! Duncan even saw one run between the suites and down past the camp pan while he was on the pathway one morning.
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For those keen on mapping have a look below at the approximate territories of our male and female leopards in the Western Sabi Sands. It’s always nice to get a more clear perspective.