Thursday morning was also a bit frustrating for the guys, some more elephant and dagga boys, as well as a breeding herd of buffalo, the same herd of 400-odd down south. Herald was tracking Rockfig and Nkateko, and wasn’t having much luck, but then while stopped for coffee, he spotted Rockfig moving through the bush. They managed to relocate the two leopards with the vehicle, but moving along the Machaton River, it was not easy to keep up with them and they were lost in the thick bush.
Thursday afternoon turned around, with a breeding herd of buffalo, breeding herds of elephant, then down at Impala dam where the Machaton pride had their buffalo kill a few days back, two of the Timbavati and the young female from the Machaton pride where seen. Heading back north, the guides got to see not one, but two leopards! Mangadjane male was seen hot on the trail of Rockfig Jnr female, Rockfigs previous daughter. She may well be coming into estrus, and hence Mangadjane’s interest in her.
Friday 03rd April, saw another good day. The five Sohebele sub-adults were found sleeping at Lily Pan. Herald also spotted Mbali female up a tree, but unfortunately it was just to the north of our boundary, so he had to view her from a distance. There was also a sighting of that same large herd of buffalo as well as a large breeding herd of elephant in the morning.
I returned to drive in the afternoon, and wasn’t disappointed. Not far from camp there were two separate herds of elephant that we watched feeding in the Sohebele and Nhlaralumi rivers respectively, both small herds had some entertaining youngsters with them. Palence in the mean time had managed to relocate Mbali after find a drag mark on the road. He followed the drag and found Mbali with a fresh, large male impala kill stashed under an African Wattle tree. Kuhanya was also sleeping under a thick bush not far from the kill. As always it was great to see these leopards together, but unfortunately the thick bush she chose to hide her kill was doing a very good job at keeping her hidden!!! We could see her nicely, but it wasn’t great for photos.
Palence went south to see the herd of buffalo, after stopping off at the Sohebele youngsters still at Lily Pan. I made my way there at about sunset and they had moved. From their tracks, they had been running – possibly hunting we thought. After a few minutes we found one male and the older female lion sleeping on the road, but listening intently and calling for the others – there was no answer. They were a bit out of breath, but we assumed as a result of a failed hunt. They were looking in as good a condition as I have seen them for a while, bellies not full, but not empty, and obviously a few weeks with the mothers allowed the food to be converted back to muscle mass. I left those two lions, and surprisingly found another three young males less than 200m further down the road!
These males were unknown to all of us, and would be about 3.5 years old; a similar size to the young Machaton male. They were lying on the road, and seemed reasonably relaxed around the vehicles, although as a second vehicle approached on got up and walked into the bush…which started growling back! There were more lions! It was the two other Sohebele young males, and they were now lying no more than 4m from these three nomadic males, yet the interactions did not appear to be very aggressive! We left them in a stale mate, all just lying in the bush emitting the occasional growl, but no physical contact was entered into. Who knows, maybe they join up and form a super coalition in time to come, but I do suspect that these three vagrants, at such a young age, will merely wander through the reserve, and possibly won’t be seen again. I guess time will tell, as it always does!