Tanda Tula - Nkhaya female leopardess in the Greater Kruger

Nkhaya female leopardess amongst the grass in the Timbavati

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Looking forward

Chad Cocking | Wildlife

I’m normally very afraid of making predictions about animal’s behaviour and the lives of animals, as they have a nasty habit of doing exactly the opposite of what I say (it’s as if they have a secret understanding of the English language, hear what I say, and then decide to make me look like a fool in front of my guests).

However, this week has felt like they have been turning a deaf ear to my conversations, and so many of the things I have suggested have come to fruition.  There’s little that is more rewarding than verbalising your game drive plans to your guests and then minutes later, the reason for you driving in a certain area, shows itself.

A couple of days ago, while checking our north-eastern sections, after narrowly missing out on a chance to see Nyeleti and her cubs, I mentioned that the area that we were driving in was now frequented by her previous offspring and perhaps we would get lucky and see them.  Not ten minutes later, my tracker was pointing up into the boughs of a Marula tree and we all glanced up to see the very welcome sight of N’weti herself.

Days later, the same thing happened with Xidulu male leopard and as a result of this, I am now confident enough to embark on a blog discussing some of the potential animal outcomes of 2020, without the fear that committing them to the deep recesses of the internet is going to cause the exact opposite to happen.  Either way, it will be very interesting to look back at this post in a year’s time and see how wrong I actually was.

Tanda Tula - Xidulu male leopard in the Greater Kruger

Making any prediction about the future is always fraught with difficulty, but this is so much more true when it comes to making forecasts about entities that have no predictability about their own futures.  Had I done this a year ago, my guess would have been that we would still be enjoying daily sightings of the Mbiri males with their two growing prides (the Mayambula Pride did grow, but they are irregular visitors as opposed to a stable resident pride and the Zebenine Pride that had so much potential, are now but a distant memory), and that Marula would be close to seeing her cubs reach maturity and almost ready to have another litter (and we know how that ended).  Despite this, I am going to give it a go…

Although the change in lion dynamics over the past few months has led to one pride moving into a new area, the void has allowed for the River Pride and their young dominant males to establish themselves as our new resident pride.  With two of the lionesses visibly pregnant and no mating going on with the other two (indicating that they may too, be pregnant already) there are going to be cubs – and hopefully lots of them – in our area soon.

I suspect that the dense banks of the Nhlaralumi will be the preferred denning site for at least some of the lionesses and this should centre the pride’s activities close to Tanda Tula Safari Campfor the first few months of the year.  The only concern I have with the pride, is the very serious limp that one of the Nharhu males has and although he is keeping up with the pride, he seems to be struggling more and more with each passing week – things are not looking overly positive for his future.

Tanda Tula - Nharu male lions drinking in the Greater Kruger

Tanda Tula - Nharhu male in the Greater Kruger

The presence of the Vuyela males to the west also pose a potential risk for the short-term stability of the River Pride, but as these boys are yet to venture into their territory (due to the constant roaring from the Nharhu males), I don’t see this as being an immediate threat. These males are more likely to show more interest in the Giraffe Pride than in the River Pride.

I foresee the Mayambula Pride becoming irregular visitors to the southern portion of our concession, but they will hopefully be more frequent than they are at the moment as all ten cubs have now turned a year old. The cubs will be requiring more food which will cause the pride to move continuously, in order to keep them well fed.

Tanda Tula - lion cubs in the Greater Kruger

On the leopard front, it’s shaping into a year that could be one of the better ones in recent times.  Nyeleti has her cubs, that at first glimpse, appear to be relatively relaxed and may start providing some great viewing from a young age; her territorial expansion to the west and south-west should make her more visible than she was when N’weti was born.  This movement from mom will also allow N’weti to live in peace in the eastern portions of our concession.

Thumbela also appears to have cubs, and although she is a master of keeping them hidden, with some luck, this litter will be more visible than the last.  I suspect that Xidulu male sired the cubs and his active presence along the Machaton riverbed in the east will hopefully permit Thumbela to raise the cubs in relative peace.

Tanda Tula - Thumbela female leopardess in the Greater Kruger

Nthombi will also be ready to have a litter of cubs, but I fear that at her age, the incredibly successful record that she has had up until now (with only one failed litter), may come under pressure.  Hlangana seems to be doing well as an independent young male, but his early movements indicate that he is likely to expand his range to the west towards Klaserie.The Tamboti male leopard is now as relaxed with the vehicles as the other regulars and this will no doubt allow for more regular viewing of this impressive male over the course of 2020.  Without too much pressure, I do think that Marula Jnr female will stay within the territory left behind by her mother and I think that based on what we have seen so far, both Xisiwana and Marula Jnr will make it through the upcoming year without issue.

It won’t take much for our buffalo populations to be better than they were in 2019, but it does appear that the herds are slowing  their growth and I will go out on a limb and say that 2020 will be a year of the return of the buffalo herds to the central Timbavati.And going even further, I am going to be stupidly optimistic and say that we are also going to have a much better year of cheetah viewing; so good in fact, that perhaps I might even manage more than one sighting to start off the new decade!!

Tanda Tula - buffalo herd in the Greater Kruger

Whatever happens, you can be sure that it will be a special treat for all the guests that visit us. Any time spent in the bush is magical (regardless of what future course the animals follow).  Also, you will now have to regularly keep up to speed with our weekly updates to see just how right or wrong these predictions of mine are going to turn out to be!

So be sure to keep on reading our blogs over the coming year for all the latest photos and news straight from the heart of the Greater Kruger!

Until next time!

Cheers,
Chad

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