18 to 24 January 2010

Leopard Diaries

A word from our rangers.

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18 to 24 January 2010

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Leopard Diaries 18th to 24th January 2010

The game viewing this week has been unbelievable! It is often thought that the green season is a time when game viewing becomes rather difficult as the bush is much more dense but this week has proven that this is untrue.  The weather has been good with no rain and temperatures averaging 32 degrees Celsius during the day. There have been a few overcast days and as we neared the end of the week the humidity climbed promising some rain in the next few days. The predator viewing at Simbambili seems to be getting better and better, with all three of the large cats and wild dog spotted during the week. Large herds of buffalo have also been present on the property for the entire week.

The high densities of the leopard population in the northern Sabi Sand Reserve is what makes this one of the best leopard viewing areas in the world. We were lucky enough to have seen twelve individual leopards over the course of the week. The presence of a mating pair of leopards caused a lot of excitement with Tyson, the dominant male in the western part of our traverse area being found with a previously unknown female leopard that is new to the area. The pair were still mating on Sunday and were seen twice during the week. Salayexe and her two cubs are providing the bulk of our leopard sightings. This female leopard is starting to spend longer periods away from her cubs, who are fast approaching their first birthdays and independence. The two cubs are still very reliant on their mother for their meals although they are proving to be good students and have been able to hunt smaller prey successfully, such as rodents and birds while Salayexe is away.
Salayexe is also starting to show less tolerance for the cubs, often growling and hissing as they approach her, this is normal behaviour and over the next six to twelve months the two cubs should be sent on their way as independent sub - adult leopards. This is a testing time for a young leopard and one we are looking forward to witnessing.

The leopard sighting of the week however belongs to
Mbilo the young leopard female who has taken up residence in the Arathusa Big Dam area. Mbilo was found one afternoon watching as a large herd of buffalo made their way to the water to quench their thirst. The herd numbered in the region of a hundred animals with a number of small calves present.

The movement and noise that is always present with a herd of buffalo was too much for the young leopard to resist and she stalked closer.  The leopard found herself almost in the middle of the herd and locked onto some of the smaller calves. Now you can imagine our surprise when she tried to stalk and catch one of these young buffalo calves! The wind however carried her scent to the buffalo who immediately went on the defensive gathering the small calves into the centre of the herd and forming a wall of horns and bodies to protect their offspring from the as yet unseen threat. The leopard showed some mettle by remaining still and utilising her camouflage to remain unseen by the buffalo, the herd then moved off and the leopard followed once again trying to ambush some of the small calves. This was not to be as the buffalo finally found the small cat and proceeded to chase her and she had to take refuge up a large marula tree.

The lion viewing this week has been good with the Styx and Windmill prides being seen. The Sandy Patch lioness and her cub have also been present on the property. The Styx pride managed to bring down two zebras late one evening and were found the following morning feeding on the remains. The pride then spent the following three days in the area with swollen bellies and droopy eyes as they digested their meals.

Elephant numbers have been good and the presence of a large herd near the end of the week provided a number of good sightings with some young calves being present in the herd. The young calves, provide hours of amusement as they try to figure out how to best use their trunks, which appear to have a life of their own.

and Rhinoceros
White rhinoceros have been conspicuous by their absence this week. We had only a handful of sightings of the two dominant bulls in our area, the Londolozi bull and the Shorthorn bull. These two bulls move in different areas of the property and were seen recently in a territorial stand-off on their common boundary. Buffalo numbers have been fantastic with three herds being seen, all utilising different areas throughout our traversing. The sight of a hundred buffalo as they rush to a waterhole to drink and wallow is one of the best sightings in the bush. The excitement of the animals is palpable and so is the sense of relief that seems to overcome them as they rush into the cool of the water.

Cheetah & Wild Dog
A sighting of the rarest of the predators, African wild dogs, was a great surprise this week. The dogs were seen on two consecutive days. The pack consisted of four adult males and the dogs were seen to chase and feed on two different impala kills. They were last seen as they streaked after another impala herd in a neighbouring property on our western boundary.
Late one afternoon we received a radio call that four male cheetah had been found in the eastern half of the reserve. We made our way over to the sighting and were rewarded with a sight of four adult male cheetah as they moved through the bush scent marking and resting in the shade of a large Leadwood tree. The sighting did not last long as the cheetah got active shortly after our arrival and moved east into the Kruger National Park. The sighting was fantastic and the flat tyre we managed to get on the way there was a small price to pay to witness these elegant cats in the wild.

Regards, The Simbambili Guiding Team


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