Leopard Diaries 20th December - 26th December 2010
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.
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.
Nyaleti 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 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.
The 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.
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.