Elephant herd in the Greater Kruger, South Africa
Hello, hello and welcome to the first weekly update of 2020! We trust that you all had a fantastic festive season and that the year has gotten off to as good a start as ours has? I returned to Tanda Tula after a wonderful two-week break with family and couldn’t wait to get out on drive again – needless to say, I haven’t been disappointed by the way 2020 has kicked off.
My last weekly update from mid-December touched on just how lush and green the central Timbavati Private Nature Reservewas looking, but it is with some disappointment to report that we haven’t had any rain for the past month, and with the summer being an extremely warm one, the poor vegetation hasn’t fared too well. It is not unusual for us to have these drier periods during the rainy season, but we are keeping our fingers crossed that some more life-giving rains fall in the area soon to rejuvenate a landscape that seems to be taking strain under the relentless heat.
I had been hoping to return to work with the news that our pregnant River Pride lionesses had given birth, but despite their near constant presence over the past few weeks, the pale lioness is still very pregnant, and after my sighting last night, it looks as though one of the other lionesses is not too far behind! I have given up guessing when the cubs might be born, but this timeframe puts pay to my theory that she was actually carrying cubs sired by the Mbiri males (seen mating with her in early September), and has indeed been impregnated by the Nharhu males.
These males are still doing well, although the limping male’s foot almost seems to be getting worse, and after a sighting of the whole pride last night, it became very evident of just how much he struggles to keep up with the rest of the pride when they are on the move. Time will tell if he has the strength and determination to maintain his position as one of the dominant males of the pride, or if the injury of unknown origin, will prove too much for him.
The Vuyela pride (of five young males and one lioness) were also seen this week, pushing further south-east than they have before, and they seem to be getting quite comfortable in the area – a presence that makes for some potentially interesting lion dynamics over the coming year. Needless to say, the Mayambula Pride have not been seen this year (although we did have a lovely sighting of all sixteen members feasting on a zebra kill shortly before Christmas), but a lone young male lion was seen moving around in their territory this week.
Our leopards have been quite active over the past few weeks, and it appears that all is going well with Nyeleti and her cub(s). We are being very sensitive not to spend too much time along the Machaton Riverbed where they are hidden, so no one has seen them yet, but her suckle marks and activity around the area suggest that they are still alive and well. Although I haven’t seen her since my return a couple of days ago, reports are that Thumbela is also likely nursing a new litter of cubs further south on the Machaton Riverbed.
Xidulu male was reported in the area too this week, and we had a brief sighting of Marula Jnr female last night as she strolled down the road past Tanda Tula Safari Camp– it’s the first time I have seen her for some time. She is in fairly good shape and was pleasingly unphased by our presence! Another leopard that has come out in leaps and bounds in terms of his confidence with vehicles is the Tamboti male – I last caught up with him just before heading on leave and was dumbstruck about how carefree he was with our vehicle following him; so great to have another completely relaxed leopard in the area!
Although not completely at ease with the vehicle, the guides also ended off 2019 and began 2020 with sightings of a young female cheetah spending her time in the eastern parts of our concession! Naturally, she showed herself several times when I was on leave, but has been out of view since my return. Maybe 2020 will be my year of the cheetah? Fortunately, my guests and I have been spoilt with African wild dogs over the past couple of days and the pack of 21 has been active in the central and northern regions. My first drive back ended up with the pack chasing Nyeleti female leopard high up into a dead leadwood tree as the pack milled about below, all under a rising moon!
The bulk of the elephants appear to have moved off to some other areas of the Greater Kruger,but we have still been enjoying some large breeding herds in the eastern sections. The past few days has also provided a nice herd of buffalo who have been enjoying the greener grasses of this section to compliment the herds of zebras and wildebeest that have taken up residence in the more open areas of the concession.
If the rest of 2020 can carry on in a similar vein to how it has started, we are in for a bumper of a year!
Until next time, cheers!