This month has been packed with great sightings as usual….
She hasn‘t been seen as much since the death of her one cub as she has been further east and keeping a low profile. We were surprised one morning, to see her and the Xinzele male together, quite some distance out of her territory. She was approaching the male as they would when intending to mate – but there was no mating between the two and she was very submissive to him. Hlaba Nkunzi’s remaining cub (13 months old) has been seen numerous times over the past couple of weeks far in the east away from Xinzele’s territory. It is uncertain what Hlaba Nkunzi’s intentions are, it could be to distract the male until her cub is independent, only a few months. It is amazing to view the behaviour of these animals, with Hlaba Nkunzi keeping a watchful eye on Xinzele.
Metsi and 2 Cubs:
Metsi had made two kills within a short distance from one another in a couple of days, which offered some good viewing of the 3 Leopards. The cubs are growing up fast and spent quite a bit of time up a Marula tree – giving some great photo opportunities.
She had the kill on the ground, while she was busy feeding with the cubs not too far away, a hyaena came sneaking in from behind and silently got close to the leopard which became aware of the hyaena’s presence. In a split second the leopard dashed away with the remaining part of the kill with the hyena in hot pursuit. Without too much of a fight, the hyaena managed to take the kill from the leopard; they were about 5 meters apart with the leopard clearly disgusted with herself for losing her meal to the scavenger.
Xinzele was seen on an evening drive with Hippo Dam female, with the two interacting quite a bit. With this male being in Tegwan’s territory, the female leopard seemed quite unsure of his intentions.
After they spent quite some time on the ground, with the male lying down and the female approaching out of the darkness growling and running past, they moved over into a thicker area.
While following them into this thicker area, Xinzele approached a tree where there was an impala kill. Great seeing this big male getting into the tree and feeding comfortably at that height, with the female leopard not showing herself, other than a some growling from her in the distance.
A couple of days after, Xinzele was seen in the far west of the reserve, going deep into Tegwan’s territory, who hasn‘t been seen for quite some time.
We have viewed him a few times in the south this month and he continues to blow us away with his impressive size and confidence. He is often using termite mounds, rocks, trees as vantage points providing great viewing.
Mambirri is still quite badly injured and has actually ventured out of the reserve in the south, the vets have been trying to locate her with no luck. We will keep you posted on the progress.
She really is a magnificent young female, so relaxed with vehicles and allowing us to truly absorb ourselves in her behavior. She has taken over Mambirri’s territory but it has not been all plain sailing! She was involved in a territorial clash early in Feb with the Metsi female who is much older at 5 years but she held her own, giving Metsi a nasty black eye!
We have had some really great sightings of the female with the 6 month old cubs this month. We also have just located another female with 4 very young cubs which will hopefully show themselves more regularly. We also know of another Ximungwe female in the north with some cubs which we haven‘t seen yet, looks like the little Mapogo baby boom is well underway!
The 3 coalition males are still spending most of their time on our traversing area, all 3 have been together quite a lot roaring, patrolling and scent marking. We have had some incredible sightings of these older males who are looking a bit past their prime and battle scarred but are holding on in style.
A Big Buffalo herd has joined us again, moving into the southern areas with the herd consisting of a couple hundred buffalo. They were seen in some open areas with them moving into watering holes to cool down after some hot days. Great viewing the behaviour between the cows and their calves as they call each other when separated, with some very happy mother’s meeting up with their youngsters after being split up in the herd for a short time.
With some warm days in between all the rain we have been treated to a few top sightings of the young bull elephants playing and swimming in the pans! Always a joy to watch as these guys display dominance behaviour and mount each other as they swim.
3 Male Cheetah:
The guests were all spoilt to a week of great cheetah viewing, with the 3 young male cheetah moving west into the Western Sector of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.
The cheetah spent a couple of days in the clearings around the Lodge, then moved further west where they were viewed stalking Impala on the Airstrip for quite some time. That afternoon they were seen on an Impala which they killed further to the North which offered some good viewing.
They were seen around this area for the next couple of days, where after they moved to the north of the Sand River and then made their way back east – they were seen at our sister lodge Djuma a few days ago heading back to the Kruger, a massive distance they have walked.
Interesting info : MALE CHEETAH COALITIONS
Do cheetah males form coalitions for the same reason that lions do…
YES & NO!
YES – because coalitions improve hunting success, 3 brothers can kill more frequently and kill larger prey (eg female kudu). They can also have a better chance of acquiring and holding a territory than a single male.
NO – because there is a strict dominance hierarchy between members of a cheetah coalition (they are usually brothers, very rare for outsider male to be accepted). Only the dominant brother will have direct access to breeding opportunities (he will be the only one to mate with females), so it is not for breeding opportunities that they form coalitions. By being brothers though at least some genetic material is propogated by the non dominant brothers(at least 50% genes are shared).
In a Serengeti study, 41% of the adult males were solitary, 40% lived in pairs, and only 19% lived in trios (Caro and Collins 1987). The benefits to male cheetahs of forming coalitions are far less obvious than in the case of lions. Female cheetahs are solitary, and as single males apparently meet as many as do males in coalitions, singletons would monopolise copulations with companions. However, there is evidence that single males have a harder time acquiring and keeping a territory. Only 4% of the observed single males ever held a territory, whereas all the single males that joined coalitions acquired territories.
How Coalitions Are Formed:
Littermates often stay together for several months after separating from their mother. One by one the females drop out before they reach 2 years of age, presumably at the onset of oestrus, some males also separate, whereas others stay together as permanent companions.
Social relations between cheetah males are more restrained and less affectionate than relations within lion coalitions. Cheetahs seldom lie in contact and their greeting ceremony proceeds no further than cheek-rubbing.
Why do we see Cheetah less frequently than the other large cats in the Sabi Sands?
Firstly – there are only an estimated 200 cheetah in the greater Kruger compared to the 1500-2000 lions!
Secondly – male cheetah offspring emigrate and typically wander huge distances while maturing and seeking to establish territories. Nine males marked in Namibia were retrapped at distances of over 200 km from the marking site (McVittie 1979). Among other dangers, transient males run the risk of injury, even death, if caught trespassing on the territories of established males, consequently females may be twice as numerous as males in the adult population.
Hope you enjoy, cheers for now from the “Leopard Hills” rangers team.