A Week of Rosettes in Pictures

Hello all, and welcome to not only a new week, but a new month – a third of the way through 2024 already!!! Despite a few spots of rain over the past week, we recorded around 10mm at Tanda Tula, but other areas of the concession got up to 20mm, once more causing random patches of greenery that drew animals like zebras and elephants to those areas, leaving the drier areas a little less active. Sadly, the rain wasn’t enough to fill the pans, but there is still plenty of water around for the game.

After an interesting week of leopard viewing last week, this week was a little more settled, but probably one of our better leopard-viewing weeks of late. This past weekend saw the young Dzindza taking her anger out on her sister as opposed to her mother when she stumbled across Ruhati (the shier sister) with an impala kill and promptly stole it. The sisters sat some distance apart, hissing and snarling at one another. Nyeleti seems to have avoided conflict, and she was found more centrally in the area, and we even had her walking right through camp one evening! It was almost thought that Nyeleti ended up in Mafufunyane’s territory one morning, but upon arriving saw that it was actually the old female from the south-east who has never really been given a name. She was found close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp the next day, and if she continues to hang around and be as relaxed as she was this week, she might be christened soon! N’weti brought her son down to the southern reaches of her territory this week when she too had an impala kill – it was the first time I had actually seen her son in several months, and he is growing into a big and seemingly confident boy! In the west, a Savannah female was found with two different kills, but with the sightings being so good for leopards near camp, we had no need to travel far!

Perhaps the explanation for the good leopard viewing was that the lions were not as active around the area this week as we have become accustomed to over the past several months. Although we had lions on a daily basis, it was usually one Vuyela male, two there, and a River Pride lioness on her own or with the cubs, but the whole pride was not seen together this week. The Sark Breakaways only pitched up in the latter half of the week, and a few members of the Giraffe Pride were also seen scattered around the west before they regrouped to 21-strong as the week drew to a close. The Vuyela’s continue to be present and roar their dominance over this piece of the Timbavati, and this is doing the job of keeping the Birmingham Breakaway males and Mayambula to the south and east of our concession.

One of the negatives of this shift in area of activity was that it sounds like these lions found and killed one of the cheetahs that move around that part of the reserve. From the reports coming from our eastern neighbours, they found the remains of an adult cheetah (so unlikely the youngsters from the collared female), and based on the area they found it, it is likely to be the carcass of one of the two dominant males. Just this morning, the guides did find a single male cheetah in the south east who was walking with a limp. Having not seen the male, I am not sure if this is the remaining dominant male or the other single male that has been popping up over the last few months. Despite the limp, the male cheetah was reported to be in good shape and full-bellied, and all indications are that he should make a full recovery. We are all still very saddened to hear about the loss of one of these rare and beautiful creatures.

Whether to do with the relative absence of the lions or not, the large pack of wild dogs also made themselves at home for much of the week, spending most of the week around the central part of our concession. Despite being in the area, they did have periods of completely avoiding us, but this sometimes happens when the dogs are very active in the area and being seen most drives, guides stop going out to look for them! The week ended with the pack spending three days in the same area around an old hyena den site, leading some to think that the pack may be denning. I am sceptical of this, as I haven’t noticed the alpha female looking that pregnant, and dropping pups at this time of the year would be extremely early by wild dog denning standards in the Kruger Park. I also try not to get too excited, as this is not the first time this pack has come and sniffed around for potential den sites just before denning season, but just as we start dreaming of having an active den in the area, they almost always move off to the northern Timbavati to den in the dense mopane woodlands there. Selfishly, I wish they would den here, but for their chances of success, the northern areas would likely prove better due to lower lion densities and thus lower risk.

With the buffalo activity of the week, it almost felt like winter was here! Although one herd of around 80–100 moved around Tanda Tula in the central regions, there were two other herds in the west. The biggest herd must be close to 500 animals, although Scotch touted an estimate of closer to 1,000! Either way, they are a very large group and enjoyed the greener grasses in the southern and western parts of the concession. The elephants were also found mostly in the southern half of the traversing area where the grasses are noticeably greener than the northern half, and this was echoed too by the general movements of the zebras and giraffes that favoured what could be the last flush of green for the summer.

All in all, it these sightings let to a well-rounded week of viewing, and I look forward to seeing what next week brings, and if it will see a return of more lions.


Until next time!