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Leopard Diaries

A word from our rangers.

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15 - 21 November

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 15th - 21st November 2010

15nov1The bush has finally turned and is back to its' bright green summer coat with most of the trees now carrying leaves and the fruiting trees all carrying blossoms.

The weather has been good with some fantastic summer weather, with blue skies and dramatic sunsets being the order of the day. We did receive some rainfall with just short of 15mm falling on two days during the week.

The game viewing this week has been a bit harder than the last few months, with the abundance of free standing water available the game has dispersed. We have struggled to find elephant and lions this week. However, the remainder of the larger mammals are here in abundance with some great leopard, rhinoceros and buffalo sightings being enjoyed.


We were lucky enough to watch as one of our adult female leopards hunted a herd of impala late one afternoon. Although unsuccessful, the patience displayed by the predator in waiting for the right moment to strike is always interesting to witness. Thandi is looking heavily pregnant and it should not be long before we find her with her first litter of cubs.

15nov2A special sighting of the two new cubs that were found last week was enjoyed by Grant and his guests. The cubs are both healthy and their mother Shadow is providing them with regular kills. The imminent impala lambing season is going to provide a regular supply of fresh meat for these youngsters.

A number of sightings of the young male leopards who are patrolling our property have been enjoyed this week. Rhulani, was seen on a number of occasions this week, the most notable of which was when he stole a bushbuck kill from his mother Salayexe.

The Rhino Pan male was seen on a large impala ram kill late on in the week. The strength of these spotted cats is something that still astounds all of us; the ability to hoist upwards of fifty kilograms straight up a tree is unbelievable.


Unfortunately we have had no lion sightings this week, we have found tracks but after spending considerable time and effort following them, all of the tracks have moved out of the area before we could locate the cats.


A single sighting of two elephant bulls made up our weekly total of elephant sightings!

Buffalo & Rhino

15nov3Buffalo sightings this week have been dominated by  resident bulls that are enjoying the fresh mud wallows created by the rains. Groups of up to nine or ten bulls have been seen enjoying the cool respite offered by the waterholes, from the heat of the day.

Rhinoceros sightings have been really good this week. The return of one of the larger crashes has made for some great viewing of these large pachyderms. The group consists of five rhinoceros and has spent considerable time in our traversing area over the course of the week.

The three dominant bulls have also been seen as they move through their respective territories performing their territorial housekeeping duties.


The Simbambili Guiding and Tracking Team

Leopard Diaries 9th November - 15 November

By Liam Rainier
Rangers Diary for November

As we reach the end of the month and start compiling the notes for this month's report, I am short of words to think how I can possibly describe how amazing it has been. October saw the African sun live up to its scorching reputation, pushing mid day temperatures to the high 30's and low 40's. This heat certainly started the beginning of all the changes that we experienced in November, with the first rain falling in the beginning of the month giving hope that the rainy season is here. At the end of November we have had nearly 68mm of rain, which has changed the golden brown October to a luscious green November.

Change has come in many forms. Visually everything is greener and where you look there are small pools of water all with some form of life, from warthogs wallowing in the mud to frogs getting on with the most important task of reproduction. All the antelope species' which have been "with child" the last couple of months are starting to drop. We saw the first impala lamb around the 16th and now and there's more than one ca count. Most mammals we've seen in the last couple of days have all had young from wildebeest, zebra, and giraffe to warthogs, baboons and monkeys.

Also Returning for the summer were all our feathered friends. Woodlands Kingfishers are back from East Africa, Steppe Buzzards have completed a remarkable journey all the way from Russia and Red Backed Shrikes make a return from the Czech Republic. This is to mention but a few.

But to come down to a bit of business, regarding the BIG animals that everyone wants to hear off. Updates on the mammals of  Thornybush.

First and foremost, our leopard sightings have increased remarkably due to two main factors: a couple of females have cubs ageing roughly around 8 months old. The mothers had to kill more often to satisfy the appetite of their young, and that also lured the territorial male of the North giving us numerous occasions the privilege to have mom, dad and babies together. Something one normally rarely experiences.

The Black Dam pride of lions is all healthy, with three cubs there's never a dull moment. The father made a full recovery after suffering a painful puncture from the horn of a buffalo. The  Monwana pride in the north remain as big as ever and have finally given in to Marvin, the new territorial male in the north. After taking over the territory more than a year ago the females have only allowed him to lay with them in the beginning of this month.

The Cheetah sightings have been frequent and recently we have found a female with cubs, seven of them! Remarkable, we can only hope that she is successful in raising them.

We also found den sights for Hyena and Side Striped Jackals around the central area of the reserve, the sightings were initially closed due to the fact that the pups were very young  but is now open and we estimate their ages around three months or so.

With regards to the big grays, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino, sightings have been plentiful the buffalo herds have split up a little, all going after the new grass growth. After the rain we found that the elephants have started moving more North coming for the sweet marulas. The Rhinos are everywhere we have seen both black and white regularly especially the one female Black Rhino has been showing off her 4 month calf.

I could go on and also go into more depth but this is just a general overview. Sufficed to say Thornybush Game Reserve is as healthy as ever. We welcome back the rains with open arms and watch in awe as the circle of life continues to turn as it has since the dawn of time.


The Thornybush Ranger Team.

Leopard Diaries 1st - 8th November 2010

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 1st - 8th November 2010

nov1We have finally received the much promised first rains of summer!!

After a week of promise the first proper rain shower fell on Friday evening with just over 15mm of rain falling in a short shower. The next day however was the big one with a huge shower of 30mm falling and causing the river in front of camp to flow for the first time in over a year.
The change in the bush has been dramatic with green shoots appearing overnight and the sounds of frogs and toads adding to the night time serenade.
The game viewing has been phenomenal with a very dramatic lion interaction which was watched by our guests.


The leopard viewing this week has been good although the spotted cats have been a bit more difficult to locate.
We found Salayexe around one of the few remaining waterholes late one evening as she fed on the carcass of a freshly killed duiker. The kill had been hoisted high into the branches of a Leadwood tree out of the reach of the ever present hyenas. This female leopard surprised us the next morning when she was found on the opposite bank of the river line with the remains of another kill, once again hoisted into a tree, this time the kill was a scrub hare. The leopard female spent two days in the vicinity of both kills feeding on both at her leisure before moving away to take care of her territorial patrolling.
A rather interesting sighting was that of the old female leopard Safari, who was found just outside Simbambili camp one morning. This old female leopard has not been seen this far north before and we watched and wondered what had made her come this far out of her normal territory, could it be that she is being heavily pressurised by the two younger female leopards, Shadow and Kwatile?

The territorial male Mafufunyane was spotted after the first rain shower as he made his way along one of our main roads scent marking and scraping. This behaviour is normal and as the rain would have washed away any previous scent markings left by the male it is necessary that he move throughout his territory re-establishing these boundary markers.


Just when we had thought that the lion dynamics had started to settle down after the territorial take over of the area by the four Majingilane males, we were to be surprised and shocked by a sighting that took place late on an evening game drive.

We had located four members of the Tsalala pride, two adult lionesses, a sub-adult male and a sub-adult lioness, earlier in the week as they lazed around the water at one of the larger waterholes.

The sub-adults both appeared to be in poor condition and the young lioness was missing the majority of her tail! The four lions moved through the property and were seen on the following two days as they rested during the hot weather.

On Thursday afternoon the four were found moving towards a small waterhole to quench their thirst, Laz and Service followed as the lions all approached the water. The lions had just settled down and started to drink when one of the spotlights lit up one of the Majingilane males who had suddenly appeared on the opposite end of the waterhole!

The action happened very quickly, the male lion rushed into the four lions chasing the two sub-adults and catching the young male. He was badly mauled and it was thought that during the mauling the larger male had broken the back of the smaller sub-adult male. The sub-adult lioness in the mean time had run away and was being pursued by a second Majingilane male.

The young Tsalala male was now crippled and tried to drag himself under some bushes, this however was to no avail because as soon as the second Majingilane male, moved in he rushed at the injured lion and applied a strangulation bite to the neck of the sub-adult male and killing him!
The two female lionesses were helpless and stood no chance of protecting their youngsters from the two large males, who after killing the young male, left the carcass and moved off in pursuit of the young lioness.

All of us had expected something like this to happen but for the guests that had witnessed this sighting it became quite clear how hard lion life can be. The males are only killing the cubs so that they can ensure that their genetic code can get into the system and by killing the cubs they ensure that the lionesses will once again come into oestrus and provide mating opportunities for them. This will ensure that the energy invested, by the male lions; in protecting a territory will be to ensure the survival of their own offspring.


Elephant are once again proving to be elusive, it is thought that due to the first rains the Mopani veld to the north is providing a fresh supply of highly nutritious leaf growth and due to this a vast majority of the elephant have moved into the areas north of the reserve.

nov3Buffalo &Rhinoceros

Buffalo have been everywhere this week, with a huge herd of over one thousand animals making their way through the area. The herd was seen drinking in the open area in front of camp on two different occasions. The sight of so many of these big bovids moving together was truly awe inspiring!

The rhinoceros sightings have been good and we have found the Utah bull a number of times this week in the western half of our property. He is still sporting a number of scrapes and scratches from his clash with another rhino bull last week but does not seem to be suffering too many other ill effects from the bout. The Londolozi bull has also been seen a number of times this week.

Wild Dog

We enjoyed three different sightings this week of the same pack of seven dogs. These dogs are the pack that denned on a neighbouring western property in July, nov4but unfortunately seem to have lost four members including three of the new pups.

The first sighting was late on an afternoon drive as the pack rested in a shady thicket waiting out the heat of a very hot afternoon before moving off in search of a meal. They were found again the next morning resting in the shade of a small thicket in one of the open clearings in the north of the property.

The third sighting was the most active that we saw the dogs, the pack was watched as they chased and caught and wrestled with each other early on a morning drive. The pack then all headed off in the direction of a recently killed impala ewe where they all fed before moving away in a westerly direction.


The Simbambili Guiding & Tracking Team


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