Welcome back to another weekly update of the happenings in the lives of the animals of the central Timbavati! I returned to Tanda Tula Safari Camp after a wonderfully relaxing break and couldn’t wait to get back on drive to see what the animals were up to. As always, it proved to be another wonderful week of sightings and game viewing, and these superb winter safaris are showing no sign of slowing down, despite having the coldest winter’s day we have had in at least two years which saw our morning temperatures drop to as low as 2C! 

I am going to start with a reverse order of reporting. This is because I was delighted to see so much general game in the area upon my return, particularly in the east where numerous herds of zebras, wildebeest, giraffes and impalas have gathered around the remaining waterpoints as the dry season pushes on. Although so many of our blogs focus on the high-profile species, our drives would just not be the same if the big game sightings were had in the absence of the other residents of the Greater Kruger. In addition to the general game, we also had many rhino and buffalo sightings! This week saw two breeding herds of buffalo (one of about 60, another of around 150-plus) spending the week in the central regions of our concession, which is a very welcome change from their isolated presence in the west. In addition to the breeding herds, scattered groups of buffalo bulls have taken up residence around the dams, including the waterhole in from of the camp where the buffalos can be seen on a daily basis. The fact that they avoided the attention of the lions probably added to their enjoyment of the area this week. 
The elephant herds were a little up and down and went from an over-abundance of herds in the area to a scarcity of these megaherbivores towards the end of the week. Fortunately, when they did return, they did so in style, and we spent the last morning drive in the company of a herd of sixty-odd elephants!

We had a very good week of leopard viewing, and our cats were found with several kills, no doubt helped by a couple of windy nights over the past few days. Marula had a prolific week of hunting, albeit starting out mostly with catching scrub hares! As the week went on, she did manage to provide for herself and her two cubs with two impala kills that she successfully hoisted into the safety of some nearby trees. After finishing the second of these kills, she walked up to a nearby pan for a drink, only to bump into a young steenbuck that had also stopped for a drink. Needless to say, the experienced Marula wasn’t going to make any mistakes with such an opportunity, and she grabbed the steenbuck before handing it over to one of her cubs to “finish”. N’weti also showed that she is faring well in her independence, and we tracked her to an impala kill she too had stashed safely up a tree – the only animal it wasn’t safe from was her mother, Nyeleti, who rocked up to get a meal a day after she had her own impala kill stolen by hyenas. Late in the week Nthombi and her son were found also feeding on an impala kill hoisted high up a tree. Add to this the Rothsay male leopard’s impala kill, and you can see why it was a week for the predators!

It wasn’t just the leopards that were successful, but our Mayambula pride of lions had a blinding week of hunting success. With ten growing cubs to feed, the lionesses are out hunting on a nightly, and even daily basis as they proved this week. Their kill list (that they were seen eating) included a female kudu, a male kudu, a warthog, and a mother and young zebra. Despite their regular big meals, it wasn’t until the last day that their bellies actually looked fat and well rounded – a reminder of just how much food it takes to feed fourteen lions! Their hunting exploits shifted their range further west than the pride has ever moved, and it will be interesting to see how much further their push west extends. Reports of another pride of twelve lions (four lionesses and eight cubs) have started surfacing from the old, more traditional haunts of the Mayambula Pride, but it is not certain if this new pride is the reason for the Mayambula’s movements, or whether they have merely moved into the void left by the pride.

The Mbiri males spent some time with the pride, but when we caught up with them later in the week, both males were walking with bad limps – nothing to be alarmed about, but a sign that they may well have been involved in another skirmish with some intruding lions. The only sign of the River Pride were tracks on our northern boundary, but no sightings were had of them. As for the poor old Zebenine Pride, I saw them early one morning (both mom and daughter were together) looking very well fed having clearly had a recent meal. But other than that, their tracks revealed that they are focusing their attention on the western sections of the concession, in an area that the Mayambula Pride are increasingly starting to make use of. If this pattern continues, we can expect the Zebenine lioness to move her daughter to safer grounds further west, and into the Klaserie, but only time will tell how this drama will play out.

Other than that, and a five-legged impala (be sure to look out for a future blog on that sighting!), the only other news is of a few cheetah sightings that have been had on the periphery of our area, so with a bit of luck, the reports of these sightings will translate into something more for our guests, just as they enjoyed a couple of weeks back.

Until next time!














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