Salayexe has lost one of her cubs. It appears around the ten month old mark she was found treed by hyenas with only one cub with her so we can only assume the other was killed by hyenas.
The remaining cub is doing well. It seems to be female and just like Salayexe, she is very relaxed. Sal has been keeping her in the Pungwe river bed, not far from the lodge for these three weeks or so and we have had regular sightings of them both.
For three days, Kwatile moved into Sals territory temporarily. She had come into oestrous, found Tingana and followed him. Salayexe picked up on the mating leopards and moved in to defend her territory. It seems there was some confrontation at first but after a day or so the two females settled down.
Salayexe, still having a cub, was pseudo-mating with Tingana whilst Kwatile was mating to conceive. Tingana had his hands full. He would mount one female, then move over to the other and mount her immediately. The Breakaway pride happened to be in the area and herd the mating calls one morning. When we found them, the lionesses had treed all three leopards into one tree. As per usual in these scenarios, the lionesses lost interest and moved off, leaving a gap for the leopards to make their escape.
Xivambalana gave us a great sighting when he killed a bushbuck and took it up a Jackal berry tree. Wobayizo, Thandiâ€™s previous youngster appeared on the scene and although almost the same age, he made no attempt to steal the kill from Karulaâ€™s previous male cub.
We experienced a lion drought of almost two weeks which was ended by the arrival of the Breakaway pride. They moved back into the area over night and killed a female waterbuck in a small clearing just out side Simbambili.
The Breakaways are looking very healthy and one of the lionesses had clear suckle marks. It turns out she gave birth to a litter, the first from any of the Breakaways but unfortunately has already lost the cubs. The reason for her losing them is not clear but it looks as though she was not the only Breakaway female to have been mated.
The older Tsalalas have a new addition to the pride. In the last three weeks we saw BBâ€™s single cub for the first time. The older tailless female was on her own with her young cub when we saw her but the rest of the Tsalalas were in the vicinity. The cub is in good condition and seemed very energetic and playful.
Whilst on coffee break one morning on the Northern end of safari airstrip, we noticed some zebra milling about towards the middle of the run way. After we packed up, we made our way towards the zebra for a better sighting and to our delight, there were two cheetahs lying in the open just a short distance away. There was a male and a female, neither of which we recognised, but we believe they were youngsters, possibly even siblings and hadnâ€™t separated yet.
Late last month, we experienced a unique interaction between the local pack of wild dogs and a hippo at one of the larger water holes near Simbambili. The dogs were busy hunting and ended up chasing a ram into the water. The impala swam in circles for a while as the dogs patrolled up and down the banks trying to head it off if it tried to escape.
The commotion attracted the attention of a hippo cow from across the dam. The cow moved closer to investigate and even ended up charging out of the water at the dogs. The impala eventually rolled over onto its side, kicked twice and died in the water. The dogs, still trying to avoid the hippo, were daring deeper and deeper into the water after their prey.
The hippo came out and charged at one group of dogs whilst two others went into the water behind the hippo for the impala. The hippo turned and went straight back into the water after the dogs and managed to catch one. The hippo lifted the dog in its jaws but didnâ€™t bite, the dog simply fell out of its mouth back into the water and swam to the nearest bank un harmed.
The impala drifted slowly to the bank and eventually the dogs got a hold of it, dragged it out and had their well deserved meal.
The Simbambili team
Moya clearly trying to attract as much attention to herself with her tail held up high is looking to establish a territory around the southern parts of big dam and into Londolozi between that of Kwatileâ€™s and Salayexeâ€™s territory. Weâ€™ve been seeing her scent marking and even calling territorially in this area on a regular basis.
Salayexe and her female cub are providing unbelievable sightings. The strong bond between mother and daughter clearly visible as they are constantly seen playing with one another. This strong bond will eventually disappear as the cub gets older and Salayexe starts to force her daughter into independence.
Moya was seen trying her best to entice Tingana into mating with her again earlier in the month and then recently was seen with Lamula doing the same thing. It seems sheâ€™s undecided as to who she wants to father her cubs, it will be a tough decision as the border of their territories lies in the middle of hers. As long as she mates with both of the young males her cubs will likely be safe from infanticide.
Mvula's been seen a lot further west than normal and seems to be trying to extend his territory. This is not good news for Tingana as he has been venturing into Vuyatela too so it is likely that the two large males will eventually bump into each other. Mvula is older and larger and is likely to dominate the encounter.
Tingana as he rests on a termite mound one afternoon, a perfect vantage point to keep an eye on any prey close by.
The Styx pride have been spending long periods in the north recently, last week they were found on a large buffalo bull kill. The whole pride, comprising of the four adult lionesses, the two sub-adult females, the two sub-adult males and the three new cubs (two males and one female), were there.
The pride ate on the carcass for three days, a wonderful sight if you could cope with the smell towards the latter stages.
The three young Styx cubs were loving the buffalo carcass as you can clearly see here, full of blood!
The pack of wild dogs, now comprising of seven adults and four pups, have been running the impala to the ground in the north and like all other predators are particularly happy with the abundance of baby impalaâ€™s this time of year.
The breeding herds of elephant have been ever present, always a favourite for anyone. This particular herd has been seen on numerous occasions and it is interesting to see how this old cow has been caring for both of the young calves in the picture. They have been inseparable and it is likely that the one calfâ€™s mother is incapable of caring for her new born. An amazing example of the bonds between individuals of an elephant breeding herd and how they we will adapt for their survival.
(We also record our sightings on our Simbambili Game Lodge facebook page)
Leopard Diaries September 2012
Kwatile, a female that roams the South Eastern corner of our traversing, has been very active lately. She kept us entertained by teasing two Hyenas with a little bit of dangling meat she had hoisted in a tree.
Hyenas are very patient in this regard. They will hang around a â€śtreed leopard killâ€ť for days, working in shifts. Even if in the end there are only scraps of bone left for the taking.
Salayexe, the proud mother of 2 cubs spent a tremendous amount of time by herself over the past few weeks. It was worrying since her cubs are approaching the time when they could start eating meat. So far she hasnâ€™t brought them to any kills that we know of.
During this â€śaloneâ€ť time that she spent hunting and fending off other female leopards as well as hyenas, there were 2- 4 days with a few spells of rain, which caused temperatures to fall. Sadly this added to our suspicion of the possibility that one of the cubs may have been killed or died from the wet and cold.
The very few times we had the opportunity to see Salayexe with cubs, only one was spotted with her.
This occurrence is quite common in nature where only one cub makes it through to adulthood. In fact, if one cub does make it to adulthood, she would have had a 50% success rate.
This is relatively low compared to other species, for example Impala which have a very high birth rate and often lose more than 60 % of their young to predators, weather and drought.
Mvula is probably one of the 5 biggest leopard males in the whole of the Sabi Sands. He is a beautiful male and just by watching him one can see the calmness his maturity gives him.
As mentioned before, his territory stretches over most of the Eastern sector of the Northern Sabi Sands. Some believe his territory might be the biggest of all the dominant males in the area. The territory stretches as far as the Western border of the Kruger Park.
Big male leopard territories are between 30 km2 (12 sq mi) and 78 km2 (30 sq mi) in the Sabi Sands and surrounding area, but there have been recordings of male territories stretching over 100 km2 (39 sq mi) with some more than 300 km2 (120 sq mi)being prevalent in the Namib region towards the North West of South Africa.
The dominant male, Tingana, made a few kills in less accessible areas, for the game vehicles at least, which gave him a few days of peace as of late he has been constantly harassed by the female leopards wanting to mate with him.
The undisturbed silence didnâ€™t last very long. He was walking his usual boundary patrol route when the young female, Moya, found him close to the Londolozi boundary.
After a few days of persistent following, Moya managed to convince Tingana that she was ready to mate.
The last morning we tracked the two of them for at least 2 hours and eventually found them on a young Giraffe kill that they caught possibly 20 minutes before they were found.
The Wild dog pack that originated and denned in the Kirkmanâ€™s property South of Mala-Mala moved into our traversing up in the North of the Sabi Sand. This is a pack consisting of 8 Adults and 6 puppies. The puppies are said to be about 5 months old.
It is at this time that the pups become a real handful always playing and discovering new things along the way.
The adultsâ€™ work rate is increased as they have to constantly think about getting food for the ravenous pups.
A pack of dogs this size will make between 2 and 4 kills per day of medium to small prey.
Eg. Impala or Common Duikers
This month closed off with a horrifying but freakishly exciting incidentâ€¦.
â€¦.evidently something was killed overnight right in front of Simbambiliâ€™s reception. The Guides and Trackers quickly put their heads together and the evidence pointed to a clan of Hyenas that had killed a Bushbuck . The evidence can be seen in the above photograph of the Hyena paw print above.
The Simbambili Team
Photos and text by Pierre Mouton (Fieldguide)
Leopard Diaries August 2012
The dominant male leopard in the west of our traverse area, known as Tingana, was seen stealing a female bushbuck off one of the female leopards close to Simbambili Lodge. Male leopards will often scavenge from smaller predators including other leopards. Female leopards really do have a tough time, especially when they have cubs as they are pressurised to make kills more frequently to feed their ravenous offspring. Where a fully grown impala will last a female leopard on her own up to three days, it will only last her a day with fast growing cubs and therefore she will be under a huge amount of pressure to provide enough meat for her family, never mind herself. So as hard as it is to raise cubs on their own, they then have to cope with the much larger male leopards that at any given chance will push the poor females off their well-earned kills. Although male leopards do indirectly play a role in protecting their young by defending their territory against other males who will kill young leopards not belonging to them, they donâ€™t directly help raise their own cubs.
It was mentioned in previous diaries that Salayexe gave birth to two cubs late in June. Her cubs are now at the age when she will bring them out and give them their first taste of meat. They are over two and a half months already and have been seen on numerous occasions. It was Salayaxe who had her kill stolen by Tingana but at this stage her cubs are still too young for her lost meal to have any serious effect on her.
Probably the most frequently seen leopard over the past month has definitely been the dominant male leopard in the eastern parts of our traversing, known as Mvula. He has been seen on an impala kill he had hoisted high up a Marula tree that he fed on for two days, another impala he killed and hoisted up a Greenthorn which he also fed on for two days. In addition he chased the young male leopard known as Xivambalana off yet another impala kill that he then treed up a Marula and a few days later he was found killing a warthog boar in the far eastern part of Nkhoro . He took this kill up a Marula as well and fed on the carcass for almost four days.
Although the dominant female leopard in the south eastern section, known as Kwatile, was seen mating on numerous occasions with the young male, Lamula, it seems sheâ€™s looking for a male to mate with again. She has been calling frantically around the Big Dam area, maybe to try and entice Tingana into mating with her, but her calls fell upon deaf ears and the only male to respond to her once again was Lamula. The two leopards spent three days mating constantly, so letâ€™s hope that she is now pregnant and yet another female will be giving birth to cubs in the near future. After her mating marathon with the young male she was found with a duiker kill she had dragged up a tree. Posing perfectly in the sunset we were able to get some great pictures of her, while the hyenaâ€™s waited patiently under the tree and eventually claimed the scraps after she dropped them.
The breakaway Tsalalaâ€™s are some of the most beautiful lionesses Iâ€™ve seen. They are in such great condition and this is testament to their amazing hunting skills. In the past two years they have preyed upon a huge variety of animals including buffalo bulls, giraffe, kudu, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, nyala, warthog and countless impala. Two of them look heavily pregnant and could drop any day now, it is likely that the other two are also pregnant as they too were seen mating with the Majingilane male lions. If they carry on the way they do, they will no doubt be great mothers. I am looking forward to the next year with these lionesses and I canâ€™t wait to see how they fair with young cubs to look after.
The Matimba male lions made an appearance from the north east in the past month. Four of the notorious six males came in from Vuyatela one morning to grace us with their presence. They are a formidable coalition and it seems are still after the young surviving male from the Nkhuma Pride. They did manage to kill this young maleâ€™s older pride member a couple months ago and are persisting on the trail of the lone lioness and her 14 month old cub. Itâ€™s amazing to see the strong mothering instincts of this lioness as she stays in hiding from the big males and her natal pride.
The Styx Pride always seem to be the lions closest to the big buffalo herds. Whenever we see the big herds coming through our property, close on their heels are the Styx Pride. Here you can see two of the sub-adults busy feeding on a very wet morning, they are growing fast and are looking healthy. The youngest of the adult lionesses has given birth to cubs sired by the Majingilanes and they were in fact seen close to this kill site.
Four very young cheetahâ€™s came in from the north into the east of our traverse area last week and these individuals have never been seen in the Sabi Sands before. The first day that they arrived they were contact calling constantly, so we thought that their mother was not far behind but she didnâ€™t show up. The three young males and one young female stayed in the area for four days providing the most fantastic game viewing as the siblings played with one another showing off their unbelievable athleticism, hunted with one another and posed on top of termite hills and fallen over trees. They made five kills that we know of in the little time they had spent in the area and luckily we were there to witness one of them from start to finish.
(We also record our sightings on our Simbambili Game Lodge facebook page)
It was sad to see that Shadow (top left) has been mating with Tingana again. She was last seen at the beginning of June heavily pregnant so by the looks of things she has lost her cubs once again. It has been recorded that if a female leopard has stillborn cubs then she may come into oestrus immediately. This seems to be the case as sheâ€™s had two separate mating cycles with Tingana in one month. When female leopards come into oestrus they initiate the whole mating process, so they do sometimes take a risk in moving into unfamiliar territories in order to find a male to mate with - as the males have larger territories than the females. In Shadowâ€™s case every time she found Tingana he was deep into Salayexeâ€™s territory. We had a couple of sightings with all three leopards together until Salayexe (top right) had enough and chased Shadow away, on one occasion coming to blows but thankfully there were no serious injuries. Salayexe also gave birth to her cubs on the 28th of June (We know the date as she had the cubs under the deck of the Simbambili Lodge SPA).
Kwatile (left) has also been seen mating with Lamula again. She has mated with this male several times over the past few months and everyone thought she should have been pregnant. She was also seen with a freshly killed duiker one morning and eventually got chased up a close by Marula tree by some hungry hyenas, luckily with her hard earned kill tightly gripped within her jaws.
Other male leopards seen during the past month have been Xivambalana (top left) who killed a side striped Jackal and fed on his kill underneath a small Jackalberry tree for one night. Itâ€™s good to see this young male of the female leopard Karula enjoying independent life. Unfortunately weâ€™ve had no sign of his sister, Xavindzi, over the last few months so we hope that sheâ€™s still alive.
Another unidentified male (top right), who was once previously spotted close to Otthawa boundary last December, was seen this month on an impala kill he had hoisted up a Saffron tree. By the looks of this male we think heâ€™s not as young as he is small, maybe just poor genes.
Lamula (bottom left) has been seen frequently as well. He is looking more and more impressive every time and is also extending his territory further and further.
One of the highlights of the month was definitely when one of Nyeletiâ€™s male cubs (bottom right) joined us on our sundowner drinks break one afternoon. He is so relaxed and also starting to look like his father, Tyson. His brother, Mati, hasnâ€™t been seen in a while but at least we know that Moya, his sister, is doing well.
As Tingana becomes more and more dominant in the area the females, too, are realising where their best opportunities lie to have a father for their cubs. Although male leopards donâ€™t actively play a role in parenting their offspring, they do indirectly protect their cubs by defending their territory against other male leopards as they too, like male lions, will kill cubs that donâ€™t belong to them (infanticide) - so a big male leopard will obviously be more attractive to the females than a smaller, less dominant one. The fact that Tingana has been with four different females in the past month is evidence of his growing dominance. The photos above show Tingana, Moya and Karula as they mate, get chased by lions up a tree and Tingana dominating the feeding on an impala they had killed and hoisted. Most of these sightings took place well within Salayexeâ€™s territory and I think this is the reason that the two females actually tolerated one anotherâ€™s presence the whole time as they werenâ€™t as confident as they wouldâ€™ve been in their own domain. Salayexe, who chased Shadow away the week before, didnâ€™t really interfere with Karula and Moya â€“ maybe she was a little intimidated by the fact that there were two females that she had to contend with.
Karula as she escapes from the four young Tsalalaâ€™s lions. You can clearly see the bite marks on her neck from mating with Tingana.
While we were watching the fascinating interaction between Tingana, Moya and Karula the four young Tsalala Pride lions came out of nowhere and chased them up a tree before showing off their own tree climbing capabilities. These lionesses have constantly been in battle with the two older Tsalala lionesses who seem to be chasing them away from their territory in the northern parts of Londolozi. These two older lionesses are also the mothers to the four younger Tsalalaâ€™s and this type of behaviour seems to raise many questions about the intricate lion dynamics and relationships of certain prides.
The new tailless female and her sister (left pic) that form part of the older Tsalala pride are formidable lionesses and their sheer size compared to most of the other lion prides in the area is an impressive sight. Bibi (right pic) is clearly beginning to show that she is pregnant and hopefully weâ€™ll see this very successful mother raise yet another litter of cubs, which would be the first litter of Bibiâ€™s sired by the Majingilane Males.
While we were watching a herd of about 300 buffalo we noticed that they werenâ€™t totally relaxed. We also knew in the back of our minds that lion tracks had been seen everywhere that morning. All of a sudden the whole herd started stampeding past our vehicle, the noise of their hooves against the earth was amazing, then we heard it â€“ the unmistakable sound of death. As we drove into the bush we could see the lionesses busy killing a young buffalo calf. It was the Styx pride, two lionesses and two of the young males. It was interesting to see that the oldest female with the nickname; â€śGogiâ€ť had the stranglehold on the buffaloâ€™s neck even though sheâ€™s missing most of her teeth. When she had finished killing the buffalo we watched how the old lioness struggled to even get through the thick hide of the buffaloâ€™s stomach; she got so tired that she in fact gave up. When the rest of the pride members got to the scene the buffalo carcass was finished in a matter of minutes, we wonder whether â€śGogiâ€ť even got any meat. Itâ€™s sad to witness such a majestic animal wither away as they get older, this individual lioness has been through three different male lion take-overs and sired countless cubs, a true legend of lions in the Northern Sabi Sands. The Styx pride have been hanging around the north for a long period now even venturing as far as Torchwood and Vuyatela.
The Styx pride as they rest on Chitwa Chitwa airstrip one morning.
The two young hyena cubs are proving to be the highlight of many game drives as they constantly use their den site as a jungle gym.
A white rhino calf blesses us with another fantastic sighting together with some old, grumpy dagga boys.
The young Styx male lion made an appearance and although it was great to see him again he wasnâ€™t looking too good and is clearly struggling for food. As always, the elephant herds are always around and are great to watch for long periods as their strong bonds become obvious to see.
A White-breasted Cuckooshrike was a rare sighting and a juvenile African Goshawk caught in flight
An African Cuckoo Hawk was another rare bird sighting for some of our keen birding guests.