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Leopard Diaries

A word from our rangers.

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Liam Rainier

Liam Rainier

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Leopard Diaries 27 June - 11 July 2011

By Liam Rainier
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.


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.


Other sightings

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

Leopard diaries 20th - 27th June 2011

By Liam Rainier
Leopard diaries 20th - 27th June 2011

With the cold, and accompanied by dry winds the bush is starting to thin out and it is becoming increasingly drier and dustier by the day. The game viewing was a bit on-and-off over the past week, with some drives providing sightings around every corner and then some days the animals proving to be quite shy - probably a result of the cold wind as the animals tend to be more skittish in windy conditions with the predators scent blowing everywhere. There were still some unforgettable game viewing  experiences during the week.


Salayexe, now aware that her two cubs are dead, was seen mating again. The last time she was seen mating was with an unknown male who has a large scar on his neck, they were mating near Simbambili Dam. She was found again, mating with another unknown male, this time the mating marathon lasted a lot longer. Probably keen to try and mate with as many males as possible to coax them into thinking her new cubs will be each of theirs, sly but clever. Hopefully her new cubs won't share the same fate of her previous litter.

Ntima has also been seen frequently in the east of our traversing area, on one occasion she came very close to killing an Impala right next to the vehicle. Her daughter, Kwatile, was seen briefly as well, both large females extremely beautiful as always.

It seems its honeymoon season as another pair of leopards was seen mating. A large male known as Emsagwen and Shadow, who lost her last litter about two months ago. The large male dwarfs the female as he climbs over her.


After killing a big "daga" boy buffalo a couple weeks ago, the Tsalala pride in the form of the tailles lioness and the four sub-adults are running high on confidence as they were seen trying to tackle another big buffalo bull. This time, however, they were unsuccessful, although the sighting was still fantastic. We received news that they did manage to bring a buffalo down in Vuyatela the next day. Without a resident male with them this is quite a feat.

One of the Styx lionesses was seen mating with one of the Maxingilane males, she is still quite young and this seems to be the first time she has come into oestrus. Honeymoon season continues...


It seems the larger herds of Elephants have moved towards the flowing rivers where more vegetation is available. The bush is extremely dry at the moment and other than some small herds the majority of the elephant sightings have been of lone bulls. A couple of large tuskers have been the highlight of the week.

Buffalo and Rhino

As with the elephants the buffalo are also looking for better grazing grounds, especially the large herds. Some daga boys are ever present around the lodge.

The Rhino sightings have been good with a large group of seven hanging around Little Gowrie. The Uthla bull still occupying his area around the lodge as well.

Leopard Diaries 30 May-5 June 2011

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 30 May-5 June 2011

This week proved to be difficult for sightings of cats in general, with most of the lions in the area out of our traversing and leopards failing to make their regular appearances. This is most unusual for Simbambili but the sightings we did have were worthwhile. We also experienced two cold fronts moving through the area.


The female leopard Salayexe made a few, brief appearances around Serengeti and the Rocks, we suspect she has left her cubs in a drainage system close to Elephant Plains but can't be sure. The last confirmed sighting of the two tiny cubs was on the 19th of May. Moya has also been hanging around Serengeti, she was seen scent marking there and to the south on the 1st. This week there was no sign of Nyeleti.

The bib territorial male leopard, Tyson finally showed up again, on the 31st. We followed him a short way from the road to an old termite mound in which a warthog was present. We sat in anticipation as the warthog slowly moved from his burrow and once clear, Tyson made his move. The fight went in favour of the warthog as he managed to escape after first getting the leopard off his back and then ramming him with his head and tusks, Tyson knew the warthog was too big for him, and did not pursue him.


Only the Styx pride and the male coalition were seen this week in the eastern parts of our traversing, the females of the Styx pride killed a mature kudu bull south of the Chitwa airstrip. Once all the lionesses and the cubs in the pride had eaten, there was not much meat left for later sightings. Once full, the mother of the cubs moved them away from the kill back south towards Mala Mala.

By the time the four male lions came across the carcass in the morning, there was little for them to feed on as a number of vultures and a few black backed jackals had already started tearing at the remains.


Breeding herds of elephants have been quite plentiful in the area, and are always a pleasure to watch. Moving throughout our traversing, herds of different sizes and all different ages are to be found.

We had fantastic experience with a tiny calf of under six months, charging the vehicle trying to scare us off while the rest of the herd paid us no attention.

Very few mature bulls have been seen lately, the odd young bull here or there but that's all. A very unfortunate young bull has been seen with a broken leg, no one is sure as to how he broke it but it is heart breaking to watch as he tries to stay with his herd.

Buffalo & Rhinoceros

Only one herd of buffalo was seen on the 4th, close to the Kruger boundary, there were an estimated 300 animals in the herd. They didn't hang around in the area long and just passed through and by the afternoon they were gone.

The usual old bulls have still been hanging around in various waterholes and mud wallows on our property.

Three rhino have been seen regularly around the Safari airstrip, The Londolozi bull and two cows moving with him. They have spent most of their days in the bush but have come out onto the airstrip at Buff pan in the evenings to wallow and drink.

Very good news for the rhino population, a cow with a very young calf has been spotted on several occasions in the area. The calf looks to be around 6 weeks old now and although the cow seems relaxed, the youngster is still wary of the vehicles.


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