The month is “iMpala” in the traditional Shangaan calendar as scattered impala lambs lie hidden all over the dense undergrowth, their first few tense days spent motionless avoiding detection. This time of new life presents predators with ample easy prey…that is if they can find it. They need to alter hunting techniques and use their sense of smell to detect the hidden lambs.
The limelight is currently falling upon her and speculation on her condition is rife as we believe she is heavily pregnant and searching for den sites. She has been located more frequently this month and has been spending more time near the lodge leading us to believe that she will choose one of her favoured den sites close by…we are holding thumbs!
The increase in spotted hyaena numbers has forced her to tree her kills again and one unforgettable golden sundowner was spent watching her finish off her impala kill while a young hyaena waited patiently below for any leftovers to fall down (See video highlights).
She was also really unlucky on one occasion! She killed an impala ram after patiently stalking for hours and had barely started feeding when suddenly she sat up attentively staring in one direction. Moments later a Ximungwe lioness came crashing through the bushes and sent her racing for the nearest tree with an empty belly and only a brief taste of what might have been!
If we didn‘t know better we might think that she was the illustrious territorial female of Leopard Hills and the central western sector. She is favouring the lush habitat and plentiful prey supported around the lodge and even made a kill very close to one of the rooms, using the pool to quench her thirst between feeding bouts.
Hlaba Nkunzi doesn‘t seem overly concerned with her presence here but her tolerance levels with the inexperienced Thlangisa may change once her cubs are born and she needs access to her reliable hunting areas and prey sources.
Metsi and cubs
Her movements have taken her to the far south west and this has limited the number of times she has been viewed this month. The young Dayone male finally succumbed to her alluring advances and they were briefly seen mating, how successful this encounter was remains to be seen.
Her relaxed year and a half year old cub has been in the area around Leopard Hills but was viewed less frequently than last month.
She has again been rather scarce for most of month and has probably been mostly up in the north of her territory.
Shangwa and her 1 year old male cub are spending far more time on our traversing area and have provided some fantastic viewing again this month. There is still a close bond between them but soon he is going to be pushed off on his own so this vastly experienced female (13 years) can prepare for her next and possibly last litter.
He has been very busy patrolling the south of his territory towards the Mabrak river, with a possible threat arising from the Dayone male. He was in Leopard Hills camp one day which created much excitement and a few nervous guests and staff, it is a very different proposition having a huge territorial male leopard in camp.
He has also capitalised on the surplous impala lambs and while watching him stop for a quick drink one day we were surprised as he suddenly sniffed the air and darted off into the bush emerging with a lamb in his jaws!
He hasn‘t been viewed once this month and there is some concern for his well being as he was spending most of his time patrolling his southern Sand river territorial boundary with Xhinzele and there was a lot of interaction between the two! Maybe the two rivals have settled their differences and he is spending more time in the north? Only time will tell, let’s hope we see this imposing male in December.
He made an impala kill far down in the south mid month but otherwise has been mostly in his eastern territory.
This handsome youngster is growing in magnitude and confidence by the day and was observed mating with Metsi for the first time during the month, he has come of age and it will be interesting to see how he will react should there be pressure from the other more established territorial males, Xhinzele or Kashane?
We’ve included an updated map showing the approximate male leopard territories as the Dayone male seems to have settled in and recent interaction has shown that the older Ndlevane male is not strong enough to hold a territory and is avoiding the other males!
The female leopard’s territories have remained unchanged since the August report and as mentioned the 2 year and 8 month old Thlangisa is moving all over the central western sector, especially within Hlaba Nkunzi’s territory. She will be looking to establish her own space within the next year or so and raise her first litter!
The intrepid rulers again demonstrated their prowess with numerous buffalo kills this month, one victim was a huge buffalo bull of at least 700kg up on the plains of the north! We arrived moments after the kill and it must have been some spectacle as all three would have had to be at their most brutal to subdue the massive and dangerous bull! See video footage of them feeding.
One of the coalition has been showing interest in mating with the Ximungwe lioness who lost her cubs while the three Ottawa lionesses were also in the area briefly and are possibly coming into oestrus so there will a some more mating opportunities for the males soon.
The three lionesses with the four cubs (Ages ranging from 4 to 10 months) have been together as a complete pride the entire month while traversing their expansive territory. See video for some interaction with elephants on the Sand river.
One morning in the north was particularly memorable!
The pride seemed to have disappeared, their tracks were going everywhere and we decided to take a break for a coffee stop at a prominent waterhole. The undergrowth suddenly erupted and seven fat bellied lions covered in blood charged out for a quenching drink. It turns out they had killed a blue wildebeest not far away so we gladly put the coffee on hold while enjoying their interaction after feeding.
Then a week or so later on a 40 degree summer afternoon the three Mapogo arrived to check up on the pride and we were spoiled in perfect evening light to 10 lions taking turns to quench their insatiable thirst.
The sad news of the month is that the four week old cubs that were discovered last month disappeared and are presumed killed by hyaena or leopard. This is again a harsh reminder of the many dangers faced by lion cubs in their early days. The lioness was visibly shaken and remained in the area looking for the cubs for a few days before moving off and rejoining the pride.
Ottawa young males
It was a pleasant surprise to see these two young males looking so healthy and venturing into their natal range for a few days while trailing a buffalo herd, ever hopeful! They disappeared back east again very quickly and quietly no doubt to the earth shattering vocalisations of their Mapogo fathers!
The rains have meant that the parades have spread out into the wilderness. There have still been some wonderful sightings on the river such as this parade underneath the giant sycamore fig tree on the northern bank.
As usual there have been consistent sightings and there are currently many young calves about!
The young bull that had adopted the calf is still residing in the small waterhole close to the lodge. He is growing bigger and more confident and we are often treated to a threat display in the afternoons as he shows off his impressive weaponry. He will possibly move away soon in search of a larger body of water with access to females.
Painted Dog Pack
The painted pack of 9 dogs is faring extremely well and the 3 surviving pups are now nearly 8 months old and looking strikingly fit and healthy. They raced through Leopard Hills camp on the hunt one morning and two of the pack managed to kill a young nyala bull not far away!
The pack always works as a cohesive unit and the two that made the kill only ate a small amount before trotting off calling frantically trying to locate the rest of the team. Once they located each other the whole painted pack charged excitably passed us towards their awaiting feast. See video footage of them feeding!
The large herds have been attracted to the rich and nutritious new growth coming through on the gabbro plains in the south. To spend an evening sunset amongst an obstinancy of 500 buffalo is an African blessing.
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Interesting and unusual sightings captured in November
A grey heron along with the much rarer saddle billed stork feeding on the surplus of common platanna’s! Frogs and toads are a rich source of food for large birds this time of year.
Unbelievable! Another pangolin and unusually this time with the setting sun in the background, we have had an astonishing eight sightings in the last few months of this secretive mostly nocturnal mammal!
Spot the pearl spotted owlet!
We have been finding Aardvark diggings more regularly in the same area and this perfect example of tracks was left imprinted one morning after heavy rain. It is just a matter of time before some lucky guests catch a glimpse of this rarely seen creature.