Thursday, 30 April 2009

28th & 29th April – The Lions are Back!

The lion sightings over the last two days have been really good. Unfortunately for the Sohebele sub-adults, those three nomadic young male lions pitched up at some stage during the early ours of Tuesday morning and stole the dead buffalo carcass away from them. I had a sneaking suspicion that the Sohebele male would soon show up there as well, and on Tuesday afternoon, the old lion was found less than 100m away from the dead buffalo!

Tuesday afternoon also featured two other lion sightings; one was of three of the Sohebele sub-adults sleeping off a bit of the nights meal at Lion pan, some distance from the carcass it must be said. There were no signs of the other two lions from that group. Giyani had also no sooner finished his sundowners, climbed back in the Land Rover, then drove around the corner and bumped into two of the Timbavati male lions! He followed them as they headed to Vielmetter trough to have a drink then wandered back south to their territory. It has been a long time since these lions ventured this far north!

Tuesday also produced sightings of the large buffalo herd, the odd bull elephant, a skittish male leopard near Makulu dam, as well as a well-fed Rockfig female leopard sleeping in the Machaton River just south of Vielmetter camp.
Wednesday morning saw the welcome return of a herd of elephants to the property, not far from Nkombi pan on our western boundary. Giyani had a brief sighting of Java Dam female leopard before she moved off into the bush and was not followed. The three nomadic lions were still feasting on the buffalo, and Sohebele male was in close attendance!

The afternoon drive (my first one back in a few days) was a really good one. There was good general game up north; I ticked off warthog, impala, kudu, three groups of waterbuck, a male giraffe, a large elephant bull and two bushbuck between camp and Concrete crossing. I enjoyed a nice sundowner with a crocodile and a hippo at the far end of Mbali dam before heading down to the main event of the drive; the lions and the buffalo carcass!

However, as I got into the area, one of the southern vehicles bumped into Nkateko female leopard a few hundred meters further down the road! She had just caught a scrub hare, so I decided to temporarily pass on the lions and go and see the leopard. As we arrived, she jumped up a marula tree with her fresh kill, but she was playing with it so much it fell off the branch! She jumped down, retrieved the hare and went to another marula tree. Repeat this above sequence twice, and she eventually moved to a third tree where she eventually found a nice spot, and began feeding without any clumsy antics!

Five minutes later we were watching two of the nomadic male lions rip into the well-ripened buffalo carcass (the smell about as pleasant as you could image a three-day-old dead buffalo to be!). The most interesting thing for me was that the Sohebele male was lying right there! Literally, he slept right next to the carcass, one paw on the front leg of the buffalo, while the two other lions fed less than 1m from him! Besides the odd growl, there was no real interaction between these adversaries, and they seemed to have settled on a truce agreement that allowed all four of the male lions to feed in peace!

We headed back home, and spotted a side-striped jackal milling around the area of the buffalo carcass, but besides that, the nocturnal creatures avoided us. Still, it was a great drive to see two kills a few hundred meters apart – lets hope this continues for a while!

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