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Leopard Diaries

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Liam Rainier

Liam Rainier

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Leopard Diaries 27th December 2010- 2nd January 2011

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 27th December 2010- 2nd January 2011

december04We would like to wish all a very prosperous new year and hope that we get to meet many of you and share the wonderful wildlife sightings at Simbmbili over the course of the following year.

The weather has been pleasant over the last week although the lack of rain has a number of us wondering if we are going to have a drier year than last year. The small amount of rain which has fallen has done so mainly at night which has made for a lovely fresh start in the morning.

The highlight of the week however had to be the presence of the wild dog pack, who returned to the property after an absence of approximately two months. The lion viewing has also been good as have  large numbers of rhinoceros and buffalo sightings have also been had. The elephants are still scarce but with the marula fruiting season approaching this should not be for too long.

Leopard

A very interesting week of leopard viewing, with almost all, of the resident individuals being seen at some stage through the week. The highlight of the week must be the continued presence of Shadow and her new cub. It is now confirmed that she has lost one of the cubs, which is sad, but expected as this is her first litter and having raised the lone cub to this age is an achievement in itself. The pair was found on a fresh impala kill; early on a morning drive and we had some fantastic viewing of the little ball of spots.

Nsele, the daughter of Salayexe, has also been seen on two different occasions this week. The first sighting was of her as she relaxed in the early morning sun. We had spotted her as she rested on a large termite mound where she spent the next few minutes posing for photographs.

december05

The second sighting we had of this beautiful young leopard was late on Sunday evening when she had a run in with a pack of wild dogs. We had found the dogs which appeared to have stolen an impala kill from a leopard which was sitting uncomfortably in the branches of a nearby tree.

The leopard in question was a young male who has been seen in the area for a few weeks now. It would appear that he had in fact stolen the kill from Nsele who was waiting in the wings to investigate what the commotion was all about. The young leopard female hesitantly entered the area but as soon as the dogs spotted her she was duly chased up another nearby tree. We left the sighting as the dogs moved away with both leopards still uncomfortably sitting in their respective trees!!

Lion

The presence of the four Majingilane males has made for great viewing this week. The coalition of males has spent a large part of the week moving through the northern parts of their territory, they have also been seen in the presence of the Styx pride. We had a great sighting of the males as they woke up from a lazy day. The presence of a female rhino and her sub adult calf got the attention of three of the males who eyed up the par of pachyderms before deciding that the meal was a bit big!

The four females of the Styx pride were found resting on the airstrip on a morning game drive; the pride appeared hungry and watched a herd of impala for most of the morning before conceding defeat and moving off to a shady spot as the day heated up. It would also appear that at least two of the lionesses are pregnant and we are sure that we should have new cubs within the next few weeks.
december06 thumb_december07
The pride was seen again on the Sunday afternoon game drive and the most heavily pregnant female was missing from the pride. We will keep you posted but we think that she may have moved away from the pride to give birth.

Elephant

A few herds have been seen this week as they fed whilst moving through the area; one herd in particular was very relaxed and allowed us a fantastic sighting as they fed in the early evening light at some stages passing within a few feet of the game drive vehicle. The presence of these breeding herds has been followed immediately by some large elephant bulls that have been following the herds, in the hope that there may be mating opportunities available.



Buffalo & Rhinoceros

december08A number of small buffalo herds have been seen during the week. The large waterholes are being utilised, by the buffalo, to cool off during the heat of the day. It is an impressive sight to see upwards of twenty to thirty buffalo resting in the water. The resident buffalo bulls have returned to the area around camp and we are seeing at least four "dagga-boys" utilising the camp waterhole during the heat of the day.

Wild Dog

It was a rather unexpected surprise to find the pack of dogs moving through the western half of our traversing this week. The pack of seven dogs has been seen on three different occasions this week. The highlight was seeing the pack as they chased and brought down two impala lambs. The speed that the dogs eat a fresh kill has to be experienced, it took approximately five minutes for both of the impala kills to be completely finished!!

The dogs were also seen again late on Sunday when they had stolen a kill from the leopard mentioned earlier in the report. We are hoping that the pack will remain with us for an extended stay this year.

New Year Celebrations

december09 We celebrated New Year with some traditional Shangaan dancing which was enjoyed by all of the guests and staff and the festive atmosphere went on long into the night.

We hope that everyone has a fantastic 2011.

Regards

The Simbambili Guiding & Tracking Team

Leopard Diaries 20th December - 26th December 2010

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 20th December - 26th December 2010
december01
At just a glance a lion may look similar to another lion found in a different pride. However when one spends a certain amount of time with certain animals, they begin to reveal individual behaviors. Although it may be scientific taboo to assign human emotions and "personalities" to animals, at Simbambili we have noticed over the years how different each animal really is.

In their autobiography Hunting With the Moon, Dereck and Beverly Joubert also refer to these individual differences with regards to lions:

"We have seen lions come and go over the decade. We will remember them all. Each one was a different character and each one had a different face"

Guides and trackers have come to know and understand certain animals around Simbambili. The cats (lions and leopards), and hyenas are best known, due to the fact that they are territorial and we view them on a fairly regular basis.

Leopard

This week's leopard sightings have reflected the differences between one individual leopard to another.

A young male leopard was seen close to Elephant Plains' airstrip. He was initially sighted from approximately 100m away, feeding on an impala kill in a Marula tree. He instantly became aware of our presence, crouched down and stared intently in our direction. He lost his nerve and quickly descended the Marula, moving into long grass where he felt more secure. He most likely comes from an area to the west, known as Othawa. This property is very large and is driven over by very few vehicles. Some animals coming out of Othawa are thus not relaxed in the presence of vehicles as they have not been exposed to them, and are unaware of their intentions.

Sightings such as this are the crucial points in attempting to gain the trust of a wild animal and ethics plays a very big part. Moving in closer would just have caused the male to run off and abandon his hard earned meal. We moved off to even more of a distance, switched off the vehicle and waited. He eventually returned to his kill, and although warily watching our every move, he began to feed again.

december02Nyaleti and Mati were both sighted in the south of our traversing, close to Londolozi boundary. Nyaleti, the territorial female of this southern area was seen scent marking to assert her dominance and advertise her presence.

The female leopard in the far east of our traversing, Thandi was sighted twice this week. We are still uncertain whether her newborn cubs survived as they were only ever seen once.

The Ostrich Kkoppie female's cub was seen sleeping up in the high branches of a Marula tree, safe out of harms way while his mother was away. 


Lion

Lion sightings this week have been excellent. The Styx pride (four females) was sighted twice this week. On one occasion the eldest female had moved away from the three other females. While sitting with the three females we suddenly heard them start to roar very softly. A distant soft roar was then heard in response. The excitement that swept over the three females as they ran toward the missing pride member was truly incredible. It showed the truly social nature of these big cats and the strength of the bonds between pride members.

december03The young Styx male was not seen by Simbambili guides this week, but was seen inside Torchwood; a property traversed by Djuma. He appears to be coping on his own and has recovered from his wounds following the fight between him and the four dominant males (The Majingilanes).

A pride very seldom seen, coming from the Manyaleti to the north east was sighted this week. The four Nxuhuma females, joined by the two Kagima males were seen walking north from Safari Airstrip. They were far out of their territory and the males were scent marking consistently. This is a risk as this area is occupied by the four Majingilane males.



Elephant

Not many elephant were seen this week. Sightings consisted mostly of single bulls and one small herd seen moving through very thick vegetation.

A large bull was seen walking along Simbambili Dam wall. The elevated position accentuated his grandeur even more. He then moved east into Vuyatela.

Rhino and Buffalo

Rhino sightings have consisted mostly of the Utah bull, which has been hanging around Elephant Plains Airstrip and had provided us with some great sightings.

Buffalo sighting this week consisted of older bulls in smaller herds. A large herd of bulls, consisting of 15 individuals was sighted at Tree House Pan in the east of our traversing area.

A small herd of one bull and eight cows was seen close to Arathusa Safari Lodge.


Kindest Regards

Shaun D'Araujo

6th December - 13th December 2010

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 6th December - 13th December 2010

The harsh browns and yellows of the Lowveld landscape completely transform in the summer. The rains bring much needed water and nutrients to the vegetation of the area. The new green lush vegetation determines the condition of the herbivores, which in turn play a role in the condition of the predators of the area. In his book, Bushveld Trees: Lifeblood of the Transvaal Lowveld (1993); Malcolm Funston describes the interconnection between all living organisms and the environment as follows:

"The trees of the bushveld are indeed the lifeblood of the eastern Transvaal lowveld (Greater Kruger area), for without them the remaining wilderness of the region would simply not exist as we know it. Certainly the great diversity of wildlife, one of South Africa's most valuable natural assets, would be absent and not only in this country, but the entire world would be poorer from it."

This statement has certainly proved to be true here at Simbambili over the past week. The impala herds have grown substantially as most of the females have given birth to lambs, bringing new life to the Lowveld. These births coincide with the less harsh summer conditions, when food is plentiful, allowing the mothers to produce good quality milk for the lambs.

Leopard

Leopard sightings this week have been amazing. Interesting and new interaction between different leopards has been noted in the area. For instance on one morning drive, the female Nyeleti was seen up a tree, growling aggressively at another young male on the ground, Rhulani. Rhulani, the son of Nyeleti's "younger sister", Salayeshe; had treed Nyaleti and remained on the ground, appearing very confident and satisfied with himself. He did not however, see his father Tyson stalk up behind him. As soon as he saw Tyson he immediately submitted to the much larger leopard. It may be possible that Nyeleti may be coming back into oestrus, which may have attracted Tyson to hang around her for some time.
3dec1

A few days later, Rhulani was again seen harassing Nyeleti and had stolen an impala kill from her. When Nyeleti's female cub joined the sighting, she was immediately chased up a tree by Rhulani. Nyeleti paced around the base of the tree, frantically contact calling to her cub, now left with nowhere to go as Rhulani had climbed the same tree. Rhulani and the young cub had a scuffle in the tree, after which Rhulani descended and moved off. It is possible that due to his size, he has undergone a huge boost of confidence and has yet to be humbled by another large male leopard (possibly even his own father soon).

Other leopard sightings have included Shadow and the cubs as well as of the young nomadic male we refer to as the Rhino Pan Male

Lion

Lion sightings this week have been mostly of the younger two of the adult Tsalala females. They were seen on Wednesday on Londolozi boundary and have been hanging around the area, although not sighted every day.
3dec2

On Monday morning, returning from the far eastern boundary with the Kruger National Park, the four Majingilane male lions were sighted lying in the road just inside of Mala Mala.

The two young Nxuhuma male lions have still been hanging around in the north around Simbambili Dam and on Sunday morning; we tracked and eventually found the two males. They are however still skittish, and if this aspect of them is respected and they are viewed from a distance, we are confident they will eventually allow us to view them close up.

Elephant

A small herd of very relaxed elephants was sighted at Pungwe Pan. The herd trumpeted and rushed toward a Spike thorn thicket. Out of the thicket, on the other side, a young male leopard was flushed out. Even though there is no chance of him killing elephants, they still do not appreciate the presence of a predator.

Bulls have been sighted throughout the property over the past week.

Rhino and Buffalo

Rhino have been plentiful over the last week. The majority of the sightings have been of the Londolozi Bull around Safari Airstrip and Big Dam; and the Utah bull around Elephant Plains.

A large herd of buffalo have been hanging around in the east of the property, close to Arathusa Safari Lodge for about three days. Tracks for other big herds have also been seen further east around Chitwa Chitwa.

Other sightings of buffalo have consisted mainly of older bulls around camp, and in the mud wallows, once the heat of the day has set in by 09h00.

Regards

The Simbambili Guiding & Tracking Team

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