Leopard Diaries 27 June - 11 July 2011
What an exciting couple of weeks! Only in the Sabi Sands do you get animal interactions like we've had recently. Some drives have been quiet and the lions have been moving long distances overnight, getting us excited when we find their tracks only to find they have crossed onto another property. Leopards too have proved to be elusive over the last two weeks but it's all worth the patience and hard work when we finally catch up to them. Leopards
On a morning game drive in the eastern part of our traversing we heard a warthog screaming, instantly we thought "Leopard!" We drove around the corner and saw a male leopard dragging his hard earned warthog kill across the road - It was the famous warthog killer, Mafufunyane. Not long after he had settled down to eat a hyena appeared, so the powerful male leopard hoisted his carcass up a nearby Marula tree with amazing ease. "There's another leopard!" and out came Safari (the old female leopard with one eye), Mafufunyane wasn't happy with her and he growled aggressively. Suddenly out of nowhere a lion appeared and chased Safari up another Marula tree! Three Styx lionesses and one male Maxingilane who had obviously heard the sound of the kill arrived at the scene and they were clearly hungry. The older lionesses, wisely, waited for the much younger and energetic female to jump into the tree and with surprisingly ease climb up towards Mafufunyane. Although she received a few slaps in the face from him she succeeded in stealing the prize away from the male leopard and was now stuck high up a Marula in a very awkward position. Coming down wasn't nearly as graceful and she landed flat on her face, even worse for her, the Maxingilane male stole the warthog and that was that! On close inspection we could see that Mafufunyane had killed the warthog by biting at its chest cavity which allowed the warthog to scream and squeal a lot easier than if the leopard had a tight stranglehold and that was probably the reason why so many predators arrived at the scene in such a short space of time.
Tyson, the dominant male leopard in the north west of our traversing, made an appearance this week. We have not seen this male in a while and it was a great surprise to see him back in what used to be his core area. It seems that he is moving further south into Londolozi and the reason could be that the dominant male just south of his territory is getting old or the density of females is greater further south? It was great to see the impressively large leopard again. The unknown male that has been spending a lot of time around Simbambili is taking full advantage of Tyson's absence and was finally caught on camera mating with Salayexe. It seems that Salayexe has accepted him as the resident male and now is mating with him to conceive. With time we can hope the new male relaxes with the vehicles.
Who said leopards are solitary? After following the tracks of a female in one direction and then getting her tracks coming back into the same area together with tracks of two cubs we knew we were on the trail of a female leopard that had a kill stashed away.
We finally found her and saw that she had made an impala kill, it was Karula. Once we pulled the vehicle in and got a closer look we saw a young male, who was approaching Karula carefully. She hissed at him and he held back, it was Nduna, a young male from her previous litter. Watching Karula feed on the carcass we were amazed to see another male leopard approach the scene. Jordaan, unlike the younger male, rushed in and stole the kill away from Karula. All five leopards within a few metres from each other. This could only happen in the Sabi Sand...
Lions have been rather scarce the past two weeks, the highlight being the arrival of the Robson's Pride, who were found full of blood and with a few members wearing some battle scars. The young lions, consisting of two young males, three young females and one yearling male, had made a kill and were obviously chased off. It is unknown who chased them but suspects could be the two skittish Kahuma males as they were briefly seen close by.
The Styx pride made two appearances, one morning we found the four females stalking a herd of kudu, unfortunately they were unsuccessful. The next day we found them stealing Mafufunyane's warthog. One of them clearly lactating and the other was seen mating just two weeks before, so the Styx are growing and their future looks promising.
A male cheetah has been sighted twice, it seems he is carrying a serious injury as he can't put any weight onto his front left leg. He could be a male from the coalition of four that spend most of their time far east towards KNP. Lets hope he heals quickly and being in a strong coalition will bail him out of serious danger.
Elephant sightings have been good and apart from the usual solitary buffalo bulls a large breeding herd of buffalo was also seen heading into KNP.
The Simbambili team