Tanda Tula - Leopard in the grass
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Returning leopards in pictures

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Another week, another week in pictures!  It was a week that saw a couple of extra layers coming out for the early morning sojourns into the Timbavatidrainage lines and riverbeds, and only some of the broad-leaved trees are starting to don their winter colours. The majority of the vegetation is still looking green and nutritious.  Perhaps it was indeed the collective effect of the small changes that made our leopard viewing a little more rewarding this week.

Well, I guess it was actually more due to the fact that a couple of rutting male impalas were a little careless and succumbed to the ever-present hazards of resident leopards.  This week we saw both N’weti female and Xisiwana male with male impala kills, although frustratingly, they were both found at the very end of their feeding sessions, despite both likely having been around for a couple of days.

Tanda Tula - Impala herd alert

Tanda Tula - Male impala rutting

Tanda Tula - Impalas pause to look for danger

Nyeleti female was actually found at Xisiwana’s kill, and it is not certain as to whose kill it actually was…  Was Nyeleti taking a chance at trying to chase the young male away, or was it a case that, although only less than 20 months old, Xisiwana is already bigger than an adult leopardess?  Either way, he ended up spending two days on the remains of the kill after he was found. This suggests that he had indeed been responsible for consuming the majority of it.  Foreman managed to find the Tamboti male leopard stalking impalas one morning, but sadly he was lost whilst stalking through the long grass.  I then found N’weti at Machaton Dam one morning, and whilst watching her, Thumbela female started roaring from the dam wall!  N’weti didn’t react immediately to her larger, more dominant neighbour’s calls, but did get up and move in her direction.  Sadly, as they were criss-crossing the Machaton Riverbed, they both ended up eluding me.

Tanda Tula - Xisiwana male leopard in a tree

Tanda Tula - Xisiwana male leopard with a kill in a tree

What didn’t elude us this week were the lions once again.  The roars of the Nharhu males and River Pride kept us company on a nightly basis and we caught up with them daily.  The lionesses managed to catch a zebra out in the eastern grassy woodlands and surprisingly collected all six cubs and walked them some 5km to the kill, and after finishing, walked them the same distance back to Sunset Plains where the pride spent most of the week.  They looked in great shape whenever we saw them, and as always, it has been an absolute treat having them on our doorstep.  The Nharhu males are looking fantastic too, and my last sighting of two of the males saw them sporting bulging bellies and a few more scars – clearly, they’d been involved in some scrapping over a recent meal.  The males were also seen mating with the oldest lioness at the start of the week.  I didn’t drive in the south-east or western sectors this week, so there was nothing to report regarding news of our other prides over this period.

Tanda Tula - Nharhu male lion

Tanda Tula - River pride lion cubs

Tanda Tula - River Pride cub running

Tanda Tula - Nharhu male lions on patrol

Don reported some wild dogs when he was coming back to Tanda Tula Safari Camplate one evening, so I braved the cold the next morning to see if I could replicate his birthday luck, but after a morning of driving around in circles, I hadn’t seen so much as a track for the pack.  In the afternoon, I went for a run out in the more open east and had no sooner caught my breath and climbed back into the vehicle when the wild dogs came trotting past me!  It would have been an interesting moment for both parties if this had happened five minutes earlier whilst I was out running!  I am sure I would have found a sudden burst of energy – not to run away, but rather to run back to my vehicle in order to follow them!  Luckily, I was in it already and followed as the pack ran off after the various impala herds in the area.  Whilst listening to the trampling of hooves as the prey fled in panic, a long-winded distress call came from a distance, but on drawing closer, I realised that the kill was on the other side of the riverbed, and far from a crossing.  I turned around to rush to the closest crossing, but in doing so, bumped into another nine members of the wild dog pack, some of which came chasing another impala past me seconds later – this time, they managed to catch it in far closer proximity to me.

Tanda Tula - African wild dogs on safari, South Africa

Amazingly though, despite making the kill less than 200m from me, by the time I managed to get to them, there was already a hyena scavenging the carcass off of the two wild dogs!!!  I watched as both parties fed (you can see the video on www.instagram.com/tanda.tula) before a second hyena arrived and the dogs gave up.  Unfortunately, despite an early morning the next day, I wasn’t able to catch up with the pack again before they moved off of our concession to the east.

Tanda Tula - wild dogs feeding on a kill on safari in South Africa

This week also saw some good viewing of buffalos, a couple of large herds of elephants making their way back into the central Timbavati, and regular hyena viewing with the kills on offer.  The zebras and wildebeest were slightly less common this week, as were the giraffes, but this is no doubt related to the fact that most of my driving was spent in the area where the River Pride has been residing. Just like we saw with the Mayambula Pride last year, when the cubs lock a pride to one specific area, it doesn’t take long for the prey species to pick up on this and make less frequent use these parts of reserve.  Luckily for the lions, the ubiquitous impalas are no doubt providing enough food for now, and with the rutting season still in full swing, they are no doubt making up the bulk of the lion’s food at the moment.

So, those are the updates for the week!  Be sure to keep up with virtual safaris posted on our social media channels for your more regular “bush fix”!

Until next time, keep well!

Cheers
Chad

Tanda Tula - Full moon over the Timbavati

Tanda Tula - Elephant herd on the move

Tanda Tula - Drakensberg sunset, South Africa

Tanda Tula - A wildebeest at golden hour

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