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A week of waning hope in pictures

Luke Street | A Week In Pictures

The first signs of summer are starting to make an appearance for the first time, in what feels like an age! This week has been a rollercoaster in terms of weather, from cold mornings to very hot afternoons and even the first spring rains. With this changing weather comes a rejuvenation from the many trees and plants found around Tanda Tula Safari Camp,and life is just starting to breath back into the Timbavati.Soon this landscape will take on very different and vibrant form, I can’t wait!

The gentle giants continue to dominate the surroundings with herd after herd of elephant moving through the area. We even had a great sighting of two of the Big Five when two young white rhino bulls decided to do a bit of elephant viewing themselves. These two species often just avoid each other, but when they do come into contact – it is generally a peaceful affair. Unless of course, the much larger elephants are feeling a bit confrontational. Thankfully, the sighting was very peaceful and I even managed to snap a shot of Given coming face to face with one of the large pachyderms.

I’m still dumbfounded as to the strength of the Mayambula Pride. All 10 cubs are still around and getting bigger and stronger by the day. They really do have four very impressive mothers to have achieved this in such a harsh and unforgiving environment. The cats have made a number of kills during the week but with 14 hungry stomachs to fill, they never seem to last long, and we have mostly been greeted by ‘flat cats’ lying (un)comfortably with fat bellies in the air. Interestingly, the Mbiri males have not joined up with them once over the last week. This is due to the powerful coalition broadening their territory even further and mating with some new females in the neighbouring Klaserie Private Nature Reserve. The Zebenine female along with her sub-adult cub have been sighted a few times recently and they both seem to be doing well, which makes me extremely happy.

We had a great sighting one afternoon of a sizeable herd of buffalo going for a drink. As is tradition with buffalo herds, they were kicking up a lot of dust around the watering hole and so we decided to actually photograph into the sun in order to create some fairly dramatic and dusty scenes.

All the guides and trackers in this area of the Timbavatihave been waiting and hoping for the return of the famous leopardess, Marula. I am one of those people that often refuses to give up on animals, my hope does not wane easily. Especially for a cat that I have grown to love over the last three and a half years. A cat that I often proclaim to my guests to be the favourite leopard that I have worked with. It has now been almost 5 weeks since she was last seen and I am now facing major doubt as to whether I will ever see her again. It has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career to follow her story over the last few years, to see her go from moments of struggle to moments of elation and everything in between. I feel the loss of this leopard will reverberate harshly through this area for years to come. I have posted one of my favourite images of this beauty here for you to enjoy, my hope will never truly die.

We were lucky enough to see Ntombi, another famous leopardess, this week. She had killed a young steenbok and my guests and I were treated to a great sighting of her taking the kill down an admittedly very precarious tree, in search of something a bit more comfortable to sling it up in and feed off. Her sub-adult male cub seems to really be branching out on his own now and hasn’t been seen alongside his mother all week. And with that the old queen has seen yet another cub reach fruition, a new chapter in the story begins.

Until next time, happy snapping,

Luke

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