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Leopard Diaries

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1 to 7 February 2010

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 1st - 7th February

Game Reserve Leopard SightingClear blue skies and warm sunny weather have made the days and evenings very pleasant here at Simbambili this week. The bush is as lush as I have seen it and the grass in certain areas is as tall as an elephants shoulder! This has made game viewing a little bit tricky but has not affected the number of fantastic sightings that we have enjoyed this week.

Leopards have been spotted on every game drive this week, but it has been the presence of the biggest cat, the lion, that has been the most pleasant surprise. Elephant numbers have been good as they move in to feed on the fruiting marulas. We have found it less easy to find rhinoceros and buffalo numbers have been relatively lower than normal this week.

Leopard

Salayexe, the female leopard, has been seen regularly again this week and it is becoming evident that she is starting to move through her territory on her own, often spending three or four days away from her cubs. The cubs have been seen resting on their own on three occasions this week, often chasing and stalking each other as they hone the skills necessary for their future hunting endeavours.

Mbilo also provided us with some fantastic viewing. This young leopardess was seen early one morning as she moved through the bush, looking for a meal. A rustle in the long grass and the strident alarm calls of the parents alerted her to the presence of a francolin nest. The leopard wasted no time in catching and eating all of the young chicks present in the nest. Later in the day we watched as she stalked a small herd of impala, although she was unsuccessful it is always exciting to watch in anticipation as a predator stalks its prey.

Leopard Game ReserveLuxury Game Lodge
Lion

The presence of the Tsalala Pride has been a welcome surprise after almost a month of not seeing the pride as they spent the majority of last month in a neighbouring property.

The three lionesses and their eight cubs have been seen on every drive since Friday evening. The highlight was a sighting of them chasing a small herd of buffalo on one morning drive. It is great to see that the cubs with their inquisitive natures starting to stalk and follow prey, it will not be long before the lionesses start to include them in the hunts. The pride managed to kill two wildebeest early one morning and had finished the carcasses by the time they were found resting with full bellies on one of the airstrips in our traversing area.

Game Lodge Drive SpecialsExcellent Game DrivesGame Lodge South Africa

Elephant

Elephant herds have been seen every day as they move through the area feeding on the marula fruits. The warm weather has also seen the herds moving to the waterholes to relieve themselves from the heat with a good mud bath and a long drink.

Buffalo & Rhinoceros

The resident buffalo bulls have been utilising the waterhole in front of the lodge on a daily basis. The bulls arrive just before sunrise and spend most of the day submerged in the cool water of the pan, moving out to feed as the sun sets.  Other than these "daga boys" There has been only a large single herd of buffalo on the concession this week.

Rhinoceros have been difficult to find, they seem to be utilising the inaccessible river-lines, which provide not only cool shady cover but also readily available water and wallowing spots. We managed only one sighting this week which was of a small crash of four rhino as they grazed peacefully early one morning.

Wild Dog

We enjoyed a surprise sighting of the four male wild dogs this week. The dogs were spotted on the driveway as we left the lodge early one Game Lodge SAmorning. They proceeded to move straight through the lodge and finally chased and killed a young impala later in the morning. The four dogs appear to be utilising the area more frequently and we are hoping that a female will join them to start a new breeding pack this season.

25 January to 31 January

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Sighting
Leopard Diaries 25th January - 31st January

The lowveld has experienced some very hot and humid days this week with a number of rain showers. February is one of the months when we receive a large portion of our rainfall and as we have already received just short of four hundred millimetres of rain thus far, it looks as if we are going to have a good rainfall year. The rainfall should carry us through a major portion of the dry season with all of the temporary pans and permanent waterholes holding good volumes of water. Game viewing has been good although the lush vegetation and tall grass has made finding game a little more difficult. We have started to have more regular sightings of the female leopard Nyeleti and her three cubs, Nyeleti is once again utilising a greater portion of her northern range.

Leopard
Salayexe and her cubs were seen on one rainy morning as they finished an impala carcass that had been killed the previous evening. The cubs are now approaching their first birthday and Salayexe is starting to leave them on their own for extended periods. She is also starting to show more signs of aggression to the cubs and we are certain that this is the start of the separation when the cubs will be left to their own independence by their mother. Nyeleti has three younger cubs that are still very reliant on their mother for all of their meals and the female leopard has been a more than capable provider. The three cubs, two of which are male and one a female are all healthy and appear to be flourishing. They were seen on three occasions this week one of which was definitely the highlight of the weeks sightings. Nyeleti had managed to kill a bushbuck and had brought the three cubs back to the kill to feed. The leopards were unfortunately not going to get a good meal as two spotted hyena arrived. They managed to steal the kill from the leopards, but not before a show of real aggression from the female leopard!
Game Drive Sights Game Lodge SA
Lion
The Styx pride were spotted on two occasions this week, both sightings were of them resting full bellied and content on the airstrip of one of the camps in the eastern half of our traversing. The pride appears to be settling down and the sub adult lions seem to be taking a bigger part in the hunts which is contributing to a more successful pride.
Game Lodge South Africa

Elephant
Elephant have been found on every drive this week, with large herds moving back into the area to take advantage of the bumper marula fruiting season. The herds have spent considerable time moving from fruiting tree to fruiting tree, feeding on the delicious seasonal bounty that these fruits provide. The largest of the herds seen this week numbered well over fifty animals and the numbers of small calves' present shows that elephant numbers within the Kruger Park system are still on the rise. There have been a number of large bulls seen either singly or in small groups following the breeding herds.

Buffalo & Rhinoceros
Buffalo have been very easy to locate this week with three herds being seen on the property as well as the resident bulls who are seen daily utilising the waterhole in front of the lodge as a relaxing mud wallow. Rhinoceros on the other hand have been rather difficult to locate and we have had only a single sighting of Shorthorn, the dominant male in the north-western area of our property. He was found on a cool morning enjoying a good wallow and scratching session at a waterhole.
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Regards The Simbambili Guiding Team

18 to 24 January 2010

By Liam Rainier
18jan1
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.

Leopard
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.
18jan2
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.
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Lion
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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
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.


Buffalo
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.
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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.
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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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