Monday, 18 May 2009

12th May – Some Interesting ‘Bush Work’

My last morning before going on leave involved me staying in camp and doing working on my sightings reports in favour of going with some of the other guides to do some bush work. It was a choice I later regretted making!

The guys were busy working on our airstrip when they heard the Mahlathini male lions roaring nearby. Just on the other side of the Sohebele riverbed, the guys spotted the three lions at a distance, and not wanting to cause them to move off before the game drive vehicles arrived, stopped and waited. It was not long before the quiet sighting soon changed. One of the hyena cubs that frequent the camp suddenly burst out of a termite mound near the lions, and ran straight towards them! In a flash one of the male lions had sent the hyena cub flying with a mighty swish of his paw, and soon had the unfortunate youngster in his jaws! The yelping of the cub alerted its mother that came charging in, but it stopped dead when it saw the three lions and started giving a ‘rallying’ call to all the other hyenas in the area. The guys said that within three minutes there were almost a dozen hyenas coming from every direction, but it was too late for the cub – it was already dead. The one lion maintained his grip on the hyena while the two brothers ran around chasing the hyenas all over the show! It sounded like a harsh, but amazing sighting…yet I was sat in my room working on the computer!

Godfrey also managed a pretty nice sighting – he found a leap of leopards! Four leopards – Argyle Jnr and her three cubs! Unfortunately though, something spooked them and they ran off, although one youngster hung around for a bit. It appears that they had killed and just finished off a duiker – not a very substantial meal for a large group of leopards like that.

I do not know if they were relocated in the afternoon, but I doubt that they would have moved very far – and there is a good chance that they would be found again.

And that is it from me and the blog for a while, I will be back in the bush at the beginning of June, so until then, keep well!

11th May – A Sad, Sad Day in the Timbavati…R.I.P. Mangadjane

I normally relish the opportunity to share the news of our animals and our world with you, but this is one entry that I wish I didn’t have to post…and so it is, that with great sadness that I have to inform you all of the untimely, and extremely unfortunate death of our one of our most treasured leopard – the legendary Mangadjane.

Monday morning started off like any other day, but soon turned into one of the bluest Mondays I have ever had to face. One of the guides had found fresh tracks for Mangadjane, and decided to have a quick look. While tracking, the tracks were lost crossing hard and rocky terrain towards a drainage line. The guide checked the drainage line and found no tracks crossing it and though that the leopard must still be close by. He went back to where he had last seen the tracks and spotted an area of flattened grass about 25m ahead – a possible indicator to where an animal had been sleeping. The guide walked no more than 7m from the road when Mangadjane came charging in at him from 11m away! The guide shouted at the animal – which from past experience was normally sufficient to break off a charge. Today was different. The leopard kept coming. The guide fired a warning shot into the ground; surely that would get the leopard to stop and run in the opposite direct. It didn’t. At less than 2.5m, the guide was out of options – it was his life or the leopards - and in a making that split second decision, he took the final lethal shot which, fortunately for his sake, stopped the leopard…the guides life was saved.

Now it might be easy to point fingers and ask many questions about why a lethal shot was needed; but when one of the most experienced and qualified guides (15 years of guiding in the Timbavati) - who has walked into similar situations countless times before – feels that he has no option to protect his own life other than to take the life of an animal he loved so dearly, you know that is was necessary. This incident has served to remind us that the animals that we see here every single day, and the same animals that seem to pay absolutely no attention to us and our vehicles, are still 100 percent wild animals, and that there is no room for complacency, no matter how well we may think we know our animals.

The sad reality of the situation is that it was either the guides life or the leopards…had the guide not fired a shot, we might have been reporting on the loss of dear friend, as well the same possible outcome for Mangadjane, but that is not for me to speculate, we are just glad that the guide came away physically unhurt, but the emotional shock will not be easy to overcome.

Now for any of our past guests that have been privileged enough to see Mangadjane (or Batman, as many of you may remember him as!), you will know how easy it was for guides and guests to become so attached to him. His relaxed demeanor around the vehicles ensured up-close and personal encounters of one impressively sized male leopard. He went about his business as if we were not even there, I never once had him show any aggression towards the vehicle, even when he was munching on an impala a few meters above our heads! In fact, I think the impala’s might be the only ones happy to hear this news, as Mangadjane definitely did his part in keeping the impala population in check (my favourite was when he managed to kill three impalas in one go)! Of course all the guides across the Timbavati were deeply saddened to hear this, and I am sure that, like me, all the ‘rugged and tough rangers’ quietly shed a tear or two when no-one was looking. It is a strange thing; he was an animal, a wild animal, but upon hearing the news, it was like hearing of the passing of a friend. And after more than seven years of ruling the northern Timbavati, that is what Rupert aka Batman aka Mangadjane (in all his various spellings!) had become to the guides – a friend, and one that will be sorely missed…

While the sadness may reign down over Timbavati at the moment, we can not help but smile when we think of all the magical sightings we have had of him over the last few years. Magical tales of a great leopard, great not just by Timbavati standards, but Mangadjane would no doubt have been a star in any reserve in any country – he was just that sort of leopard. He was the ultimate leopard, from killing fully grown female kudu’s weighing more than twice as much as he did to stories of him killing fully grown hyenas and then hoisting them into trees to feed on them – then more tenderly making a meal of a group of catfish in a drying pool, and too taking them into the trees! He always had a go at the hyenas that pestered him when he was on his kills, as had many meetings with the Sohebele lion pride that shared his land. These ultimate enemies knew each other well and shared many encounters (some almost ending Mangadjane’s life even earlier) – my most memorable being when the pride of eight lions kept Mangadjane biding his time on the whimsical branches of a marula tree on an extremely warm autumns day…all day long! He had no shade, and little room to move, but he did have something the lions wanted – an impala kill. The lions were patient, but Mangadjane was even more so…daylight came and went, and Mangadjane was still sitting tight, not even attempting an escape – not even when an intruding male leopard came and joined him in the tree, despite all eight lions still sitting underneath them. In the morning all characters were gone, and Mangadjane – possibly stiff-legged – wasn’t seen in a tree for sometime after that!

My favourite attribute about Mangadjane was his patience – and it always amazed me to see him sitting and waiting at the entrance of a warthog burrow, sometimes for almost 48 hours at a time , just knowing that eventually the warthog would have to come out, and if it did, he was ready…well, most times anyway!!!

We could go on and on about our dearly departed friend (and if you have any great stories or memories of him, please feel free at leave a comment on the blog!), but we have to move on. He was a legend, he was one-of-a-kind, and he contributed towards making the Timbavati the special place it is. And although he is gone, he has left more than a legacy – he has populated the reserve with several offspring, the latest being Nkateko, and together with our other fantastic leopards, they will continue to provide the guests and guides with countless wonderful memories and photographic opportunities. Mangadjane has also left a big gap, and as is the way of the bush telegraph, ‘news’ will soon spread that there is a vacant territory about, and there will be new males moving in to try and stake a claim, the same way Mangadjane moved into the area all those years ago. Time will tell which leopard moves in to take over – it might be a complete outsider, it could be one of Mangadjane’s previous offspring like Rockfig Young Male, or maybe the Argyle male will continue to push further south – at this stage it is a bit soon to tell, but Mangadjane’s departure will certainly lead to some interesting developments in the world of the leopards of the Timbavati, until our new golden boy makes this his home…

So that is it, the story that has rocked our little worlds, but we have to look forward to what the future holds – and be sure that you will be able to read about any new developments here on the Motswari Blog.

My first ever photo of Mangadjane...
...and my last...RIP my friend

10th May – Sohebele Sub-adults Seen!

Sunday was my last drive before leave (and three weeks annual leave – so I will return to my regular blog posts again in June), and although it was a shortened two-hour drive, it was a good one. Our plan was to go and check up on Mbali and her impala kill from last night, but the roaring of the three Mahlathini male lions heard just before game drive required investigation. The roaring was coming from some distance away, but was in the direction of Karans Big Dam. We drove around but didn’t see any sign of the lions, until we went up onto the dam wall when my tracker spotted tracks for one lion. We checked the dam, but there was only a lone side-striped jackal having a drink. This relatively shy and nocturnal creature finished his drink then came and trotted past the vehicle. While watching the jackal, Marion (the lodge’s owner) said she heard what she thought was a lion behind us. We went and checked a short road but found nothing. She suggested we checked a bit further east as she was sure she heard a lion. I gave it a go, but wasn’t confident as we were 100m from our boundary with the Kruger National Park, and if the calls came from inside there, we would not find the lions….but, Marion was right, and there, not 10m from the Kruger boundary we found the three lions, once again living up to their new name by sitting in the middle of a mopane thicket with a pretty poor visual. One walked past in the open and went to lie with his brother, so I reversed and stopped. I then decided to pull my hand-brake up, and that noise frustratingly sent them running!

I still wanted to go and see Mbali, so left Johannes to relocate and he did manage to find them again. In the mean time, Elliot ahd arrived at the scene of Mbali’s kill and managed to find not only her, but also her daughter, Kuhanya, at the site of the impala kill. Mbali was lying in a thicket, but Kuhanya was just relaxing in an open patch near the kill.

In the afternoon, with a few more drives out, the guys got to see these two leopards again, but even better was the news that two young lions were seen with an impala kill by a staff member. Our guides followed up on this news and two of the Sohebele Sub-adults feeding on an impala that they had caught earlier in the afternoon! It was really great to know that they are back, and hunting well. They kept looking towards the west while feeding, and eventually just turned and ran! Johannes spotted two lions approaching from the west…but it was only the two female sub-adults, and clearly the two males had misidentified them! So, while two got to eat well, the other two didn’t have much of a meal. The problem with the above scenario was the absence of the third sickly young male. Although I have made this mistake in the past, I would have a guess that his absence can only mean one thing – his ailing body has eventually succumbed to the inevitable, and he has passed away. Although we will have to wait a bit longer to confirm this, from his physical state during out last sighting of his 11 days ago, he did not look like he would make. This incident is a real pity, especially considering how well he had overcome all the other obstacles thrown at him over the last two and a half years of his life.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

08th & 09th May – Great Leopards, but Lions Still a Struggle!

The last two days have made us miss our forgotten Sohebele pride even more - they have failed to return after leaving the area a week and a half ago. Luckily our leopard sightings have been pretty good, and that has kept everyone happy!

Friday morning started of wet! Yip, we had a fair amount of rain, 27mm up north, and a reported 20mm further south; quite a bit for this time of the year. Some of the guests braved a bit of drizzle first thing in the morning, but it soon passed, and by 7h30, the weather was actually cool, calm and dry!

The morning was full of smaller creatures, a good number of reptiles, including some young pythons, tortoises, terrapins and a monitor lizard. General game was not overly active this morning, the hippos were about at Mbali dam, some waterbuck and impala, and then back at camp, there were a few giraffe during breakfast. The large herd of buffalo was still around down south, not far from Entrance Dam. On the way to the buffalo, I swung past a sighing of Nkateko female leopard. She was found north of Hide Dam, and we watched her making a half-hearted attempt at stalking some impala, but her cover was soon blown and she moved off to the north.

After Nkateko, we headed over to the buffalo, but they were starting to settle down for the morning, so we left them resting before heading back to camp.

In the afternoon, Herald headed south and again saw the buffalo herd, and in amidst them was an ambitious/careless Nkateko! She was again stalking buffalo, and found herself in the middle of the herd of buffalo showing a keen interest in one of the babies in the Machaton riverbed! The adults soon chased her off before she got herself into too much trouble.

I went and checked up on the Argyle male leopard, and found that he had eventually taken the measly remains of his impala up a nice marula tree a 100m or so away from where he had it stashed yesterday. He was in the company of three hyenas that were waiting patiently for the scraps, but as there was almost nothing left, bar a few legs and the head, they were probably not going to get much reward. The leopard lay perched perfectly in the tree and enjoyed the setting sun before we left him still keeping an eye on the hyenas. The rest of the afternoon was rather quiet, due in part to the fact that the last part of the drive was spent racing home to get out of the rain! The sky soon cleared and allowed for a nice, dry boma dinner.

Saturday arrived, and sunny blue skies greeted us. I went on a bush walk, but it was quiet on the game front. Herald saw some giraffe, zebra, elephant and buffalo down south, and was also treated to some lions! Yes, LIONS! He had headed far south to see the Timbavati males that were busy feeding on a large warthog kill! The three Machaton females had been around earlier, but were not seen in the morning.

After breakfast, I went out with some of the trackers to follow up on a report of the three Mahlathini male lions (our new name for those three nomadic lions – Mahlathini means ‘thick bush’, an appropriate name for these lions that seem to always go to the thickest bush they can find!). Within 5 minutes we caught a glimpse of them running away from us in a Mopane thicket. We went in with a vehicle and caught another glimpse of them running away, and realized then, that in such thick bush, it was a waste of time. As a result, I also needed to make the long trip south for lions in the afternoon!

As we approached Java airstrip, I spotted Java Dam female leopard crouched right in the middle of the road, so I stopped and turned off immediately, hoping she would not run. She held her position for half a minute, then glared at us before slinking off into the bush, and straight into a thicket – we didn’t spend long trying to relocate. Carrying on our long journey south, we saw two zebras, bypassed that large herd of buffalo on the banks of the Machaton, as well as a small herd of elephants.

We arrived at the lion sighting as the three Machaton females were getting mobile and followed them a short while as they headed south. The two fat Timbavati males soon followed, examined some of the urine left behind by the females and then followed their scent trail; unfortunately that took them straight down into the Nhlarulumi riverbed, and we could no longer follow them. The long trip home, on a now chilly evening didn’t produce many nocturnal creatures, although we did see a beautiful Verraux’s eagle-owl. The nicest thing however, was seeing three different breeding herds of elephant, including a nice herd up north on Java; the first in many weeks! It would be really great if this is the start of the return of the herds to the area!

Johannes managed to find Mbali female leopard with a very fresh impala kill – he reckoned it happened no more than 30 minutes prior to finding her. I will be heading there first thing tomorrow to have a look – Mbali just has to make sure she keeps it safe from the hyenas that normally rob her of her hard-fought meals. It will also be interesting to see if she goes to look for Kuhanya and brings her back to the meal…

Thursday, 7 May 2009

07th May – Superb Leopard Sightings

Following a personally quiet afternoon yesterday, I was keen to make up for it this morning, and was well rewarded!

I headed straight over to check on Argyle male, and although he had not taken his impala kill up a tree, he had succeeded in not loosing it to the hyenas! I spent some good time watching him, he covered up some of the remnants of the kill with sand, and continued his growling at the vehicle, but less vehemently than yesterday. While watching him, a warthog wandered up to the impala carcass, seemingly unaware that the male leopard responsible for its demise was lying not 10m away! For some reason, Argyle male was uninterested in the warthog and did not even make an attempt to stalk it!

From there, we drove towards our common boundary with the Kruger National Park, and saw four different groups of zebra – not bad considering we, on average, have more leopard sightings than zebra sightings! At Karans Big Dam we watched a great tussle between two impala rams fighting for territory, and while the dominant male was preoccupied with the fight, a group of bachelors ran around chasing his females and trying to mate with them – I also got to see impalas mate; my first ever witnessing of such an event!

Herald had located Kuhanya female leopard, and I thought that she would be nice to see on a now-cloudy morning. As I turned onto the road she was on, there was a leopard in front of me...but no Herald! Weird. Well it was until I saw which leopard it was; it was Mbali female! I was now blasé about leopards, and literally let her walk past us before driving a couple of hundred meters further to the next leopard sighting!

Kuhanya was probably following her moms scent trail, and was not far off, but got distracted by a group of male impalas and some waterbuck. She watched intently, taking up a stalking position, but the alarm calls from the waterbuck alerted the impala to her presence, and she soon gave up, before disdainfully walking towards the waterbuck who held their ground, but later scattered! I left her with Johannes, who spent the next half hour watching her humorously trying to catch a squirrel that kept running up and down a small tree!

Down south, many of the Motswari guides had responded to a sighting of Nhlangula male rhino, not too far from Sweetwater Pan. He gave them a bit of a run around, but was eventually relocated and most of the guides got to see him. Godfrey also found a few buffalo bulls, and other general game was not too bad – although for me, the leopards ruled the morning!

The afternoon saw the return of the large herd of buffalo to our property, and they were found near Hide Dam in the south. There was no luck relocating on either Mbali, Kuhanya, or those three nomadic lions that had been around in the morning. Godfrey managed to find a nice group of giraffe; a species that had been avoiding him the last few days! He also commented on the good number of hyenas he had see this afternoon – the Rockfig clan at Hide dam, some hyenas while watching the buffalo and the giraffe, and then another as he was returning to camp!

I just went on a short drive, and spent some quality time watching Argyle male feeding on his impala kill, before he moved off a short way to start grooming. Then after dark we didn’t have much luck, bar the sighting of a lone elephant at Argyle Dam.

There were also separate reports of Rockfig female and Mangadjane male leopards down south on Vielmetter property, but none of our guides responded there. Johannes had also tracked Argyle Jnr female and her cubs this morning, in the vicinity of Argyle Dam. He had suspected that she was taking them back to a kill, but unfortunately the hyenas had already stolen the meal and neither she nor the cubs could be located.
Still, without those sightings, we had a rather special day of leopard sightings – and long may it continue!

06th May – Argyle Male Leopard with Impala Kill

Wednesday morning started out with good news. The southern stations had already picked up Nthombi female leopard south of Double Highway, a far way to go, but worth it for a leopard like Nthombi! I decided to head that side, but was put in a bit of a predicament when Godfrey called to tell me that he had found Argyle male leopard with a fresh impala kill, not too far from camp. I decided that I would rather head down to Nthombi as I was half way there, while the other Motswari stations enjoyed the sight of this large male leopard feeding on an impala.
To my disappointment, I heard that Nthombi had been left unattended and would need to be tracked if I wanted to see her. I still decided to chance it, but soon found tracks for Mangadjane male leopard north of Vielmetter camp, and the workers there said that they had heard a leopard calling in the area a few minutes earlier. My tracker started following the tracks, but eventually Giyani bumped into a rather fat and sleepy Mangadjane sleeping right in the middle of the road! Following his impala kill a few days back, he must have had another small kill, possibly a baby impala or a duiker, and he was in no mood to do anything!

I never managed to get to the area where Nthombi had been seen, instead I headed back north to see the Argyle male who was now resting next to his kill. He was surprisingly aggressive towards the vehicle, and even from a reasonable distance was snarling and hissing at us! Despite this he was still relatively relaxed, and possibly just warning us not to come closer to his kill, as when he was found later in the afternoon resting up a nearby Mopane tree (he clearly doesn’t know what a good ‘leopard tree’ is!), he was fine.
My afternoon drive was a quiet one, and I checked to see if there was any sign of the Sohebele pride returning, but there was nothing in the north. Godfrey managed to find the three nomadic lions in their favourite spot near Mbali bush braai; once again, sleeping in an area where we do not drive off road! Luckily, they were still visible from the road, but they too were not looking too energetic. Andrew went after dark, and they were still there, just now lying in the open.

Mangadjane was found sleeping in the same place, and Godfrey was lucky enough to see some life in him as he got up and walked along the road.

Down south, Herald also saw a breeding herd of elephants, a sighting that continues to be frustratingly rare these days!

I look forward to seeing more of the Argyle male leopard over the next few days…

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

05th May – Three Nomadic Lions not so ‘Nomadic’!

Our struggle for lions continued this morning, and I was desperate to find any sign of them. I once again checked our northern boundary, but saw no sign of the Sohebele pride coming back. The manager of one of the camps radioed to say that he had heard the Sohebele male roaring near his camp, and I decided to head in that direction to go and follow up. On the way there, my tracker found signs of those three young nomadic lions at Mvubu crossing, and went on foot to find them. He soon located them in a thicket on a nearby drainage line. The one male ran off when we approached in the vehicle, and the other two stayed under the bush, before themselves making a hasty exit. We followed the one lion at a distance as he went to find his brothers who were now lying in a Mopane thicket – but unfortunately it was too thick, and they seemed a bit too nervous to pursue them any longer, so we left and went and had some coffee. On the way back to camp, we found three buffalo, an elephant bull, a female giraffe and calf on our airstrip, and another elephant bull drinking at our Trade Entrance Dam. Andrew watched nine elephant bulls having a drink at Buffalo Pan late in the morning.

Later in the morning, Johannes found Mbali female leopard a few hundred meters from the lions, and she was relocated in the afternoon at Mvubu crossing. As I arrived, she got up and started wandering in southerly direction before bolting back to the north. We followed behind, and ahead spotted some male waterbuck involved in a fight with one anther! Mbali ran to within a few meters of the two males and then stopped, contemplating whether to risk an attack on an antelope that was clearly far out of her size range. The two waterbuck seemed relatively oblivious to her presence, but when a third individual sounded the alarm, they stopped, didn’t see the leopard 8m away from them, and then ran off to the river! I suspect Mbali had heard the clash of horns and assumed it was some male impalas – much easier targets for a cat of her size! She then turned her attention to a herd of impala, and continued to stalk and pursue the herd for the rest of the afternoon; we eventually left when it became too dark to follow her without using a spotlight.

After sundowners, those three lions were found at Mvubu crossing, and we spent a short time with them, but they had clearly had a good meal yesterday, and were in no mood to do much besides sleep – even when a hippo wandered past not too far from them! It was a bit disconcerting to see that even in the dark, they were a bit weary of the Land Rover at first, but soon settled down and allowed for a nice sighting.

Heading back to camp, I saw three buffalo bulls, an elephant bull in the distance, giraffe, impala, waterbuck, and five hyenas (including three cubs) at Trade Entrance Dam.

That ended off another productive afternoon at Motswari!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

03rd and 04th May – More Big 5 Sightings!

Some unseasonably warm weather has been gracing us the last few days, and made for some very pleasant temperatures throughout the day. The animals made it a bit difficult for us over the last 48 hours, but we were still treated to some good game viewing.
Sunday morning started off with a pack of four hyenas frolicking around Xinatsi dam near camp, some males showing a keen interest in one of the larger females. Andrew also picked up on Sohebele male lion wandering around, still limping quite badly though. After some elephant and waterbuck, I headed towards Mbali dam where the alarm calls of the resident baboon troop alerted us to the presence of danger; the three young nomadic male lions! They were walking near the bank of Mbali dam but luckily came closer to the road before going to settle down at Mbali Bush Braai. Despite not being able to drive off road in that area, we were treated to a good sighting as they settled down right next to the road.

Sunday morning also saw the welcome return of some elephant herds; reports of a large group near Nkombi pan, and then a second smaller herd that we saw not far from the lions feeding on the banks of the Nhlarulumi. Some large bull elephants were also found feeding in the Mopane thickets surrounding Karans Big Dam and Kudu Pan.

Andrew headed down south and managed to see Mangadjane male leopard sleeping near his same impala kill from last night.

In the afternoon, the general game seemed a bit quieter, and there was still no sign of Mbali or Kuhanya up north, and I only saw one of those three lions briefly as they ran into the reeds in the Nhlarulumi River near Mbali Dam. Fortunately the south was a bit busier, and we headed down to see not only the Nhlangula male white rhino feeding in the late afternoon, but we also got to see a fat and motionless Mangadjane! He had for some reason abandoned his kill and walked a few kilometers up to Entrance dam and spent the entire afternoon sleeping on the waters edge. Although it was great to see him, we only spent a few minutes in his company, opting instead to go and see his daughter, Nkateko, who was found a kilometer or so away. Giyani had found her wandering around near Vielmetter camp, and she did provide a better sighting stalking something that only she could see!

Monday morning was a touch cooler, but still a pleasant day. Our attempts at finding any sign of the Sohebele Pride returning failed, as did those of locating any leopards! It was a frustratingly quiet start to the morning, but as the drove progressed, things improved. It started with four large elephants drinking at Lily pan, a skittish buffalo that didn’t hang around long, some giraffe near Nkombi pan and another at Makulu dam (along with some uncharacteristically active hippos!). A large herd of elephants was also located feeding in the mopane’s near Makulu dam, and we then headed back to camp feeling a bit better about the drive!

The afternoon saw yet more elephant bulls, including a group of five large individuals that fed only a few meters from the Land Rover, enjoying the green Mopane trees on Karans and Scholtz.

I was starting to stress about finding leopard this afternoon, as most attempts were not working out. I was heading into an area where some rangers had seen tracks for Mangadjane, but on the way there, I was told that there was a leopard on Vyboom Dam wall, right near our northern boundary, but I didn’t really care, I was desperate! I headed straight over, and arrived just as the young leopard got up and came along the dam wall to where we were parked. I assumed it was one of Argyle Junior’s youngsters, and she looked a bit tentative from a distance. It was only when she declined to jump down the wall and came straight towards us that I realized it was in fact Kuhanya! I had never seen her that far north, but with independence beckoning, I am sure she is just scoping the area. We proceeded to follow her as it got dark and she stalked after some guineafowl. The birds flew into a big leadwood tree, and Kuhanya followed them up, but she soon realized it was a loosing battle and decided to rest for a while before jumping down and wandering off into the darkness!

As we approached camp, some of the resident hyena clan were around the waterhole behind camp, and it ended off what turned out to be a nice day. We just really need some lions tomorrow!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

01st & 2nd May – Struggle for Leopard Ends Well!

The last two days have been a bit of a struggle for leopard, but luckily it all ended well last night with a great sighting of Mangadjane male leopard.

Friday morning started off rather quietly, Herald found those three young nomadic lions, but they were in the Nhlarulumi riverbed which made following them difficult, and they were left heading north in the general direction of where the Sohebele male was found sleeping in amongst some sedge. He was extremely inactive again, and didn’t move all day, in the afternoon he was relocated 5m from his morning position.

Although there were tracks for Mbali and Kuhanya on Friday morning, they proved frustratingly difficult to track and were not found at all. General game was alright, with giraffe, elephant, waterbuck and hippo being seen.
Friday afternoon was also difficult, only Giyani got to see Nkateko female leopard hanging around her favourite spot; Vielmetter Camp! She too was frustatingly difficult to follow as she walked along the riverbank, only allowing the occasional visual before she was totally lost and nobody managed to relocate her. General game viewing included some giraffe drinking at Hide Dam, some elephant bulls near our soccer field, hippos at Makulu dam, hyena, genet and some good bird-life.

Saturday was a slightly better day. Andrew found the three young nomadic lions once again – they really seem to be making themselves at home! They spent most of the day sleeping in a thick drainage line near Mbali dam. A number of elephant bulls were seen destructively feeding on the bushwillows that are rapidly changing into their autumn colours! A lone buffalo bull was also seen, and we once more struggled to track Mbali around Francolin pan. Our bushwalk saw us encounter three large elephant bulls not 300m from camp.

The afternoon was following the same ‘leopard-free pattern’ and following up on this mornings tracks for Mbali was a fruitless exercise. The three young lions were in the same spot, a lot of impala were out and about, but it was rather quiet!

We then heard that Mangadjane male leopard had been found quite far south of Double Highway with a large impala kill stashed up a marula tree. The sighting was a busy one due to a quiet few days on the leopard front, so I bided my time up north before heading down to the leopard that had been fast-asleep all afternoon!

The trick with Mangadjane is to go and see him after dark, that seems to be his peak time to feed – and that is exactly what we were treated to; the awesome sight of this large male leopard feeding on a fully grown impala that he had stored in the safety of a large tree. The sounds of his powerful jaws crunching through the bones of the impala was something special, and it soon drew the attention of two hyenas that came sauntering in, but luckily the kill was well out of their reach, and Mangadjane carried on feeding as if they weren’t even there! While we were making the long trip home, Johannes radioed in that he had found a young female leopard a few hundred meters from Motswari!!! He left her stalking after a nearby herd of impalas.

Hopefully the leopards will be a bit more forthcoming over the next few days!