Friday, 10 July 2009

07th, 08th & 09th July – Sohebele Pride Returns!

Just when we were starting to loose hope that we would ever see lions again, the wandering Sohebele pride made a pleasing return. On Tuesday morning, with many of our guests on their last drive, we were desperate for lions, and news of the Machaton pride, with all three Timbavati males and the three cubs present, but way, way down south, we were preparing for a long trip when Elliot called us to tell us that he had found the six Sohebele lions on De Luca airstrip not too far from our camp. This was great news and al of our guests got to see the lions. The pride were looking thin, but the blood stained fur on some of them did indicate a recent meal. I got there late in the morning and found them sleeping, but they soon got up and started moving back north. We followed them for some time before they entered an impenetrable Mopane thicket, and we left them. That was about the only highlight on Tuesday morning, but I don’t think anyone cared, as we were just delighted to have our pride of lions back. There were a few elephants and giraffe about, in addition to the usual waterbuck, impala, hippo and kudu.

The Sohebele pride were clearly quite active during the middle of the day, as they were relocated about 2km from the mornings position, and were found sleeping at Argyle dam, their first return to that area since that fateful night almost 4 weeks ago. Andrew also found a young leopard sleeping on Vyboom dam wall late in the evening.

I wasn’t driving on Wednesday morning, but things sounded a bit quiet. The Sohebele pride had yet again covered almost the entire distance of the reserve in one night, and were found on our southern property near Sweetwater pan! In the afternoon, they were not relocated until late in the evening when Giyani found them north-east of Elephant dam. Andrew had a sighting of Nkateko female leopard down south as well as some a herd of elephants. Herald, Elliot and I only went out for a short drive as our group arrived late, and saw some hippos, bull elephants, giraffe, civet and African wild cat.

Thursday morning was spent trying to track the three Mahlathini male lions up north on Argyle, but the tracks for one of the males crossed into Klaserie so we gave up. It was a cold but sunny morning, and the animals were not overly active for us, although we again ticked off kudu, waterbuck, impala, a couple of sightings of bull elephants, two lone bull buffalos, steenbok, duiker, hippos and bushbuck. After breakfast we had a bush walk around camp and saw some impala, nyala and a female giraffe.

The afternoon was a good one, and we headed to the southern sector where late in the morning the Sohebele pride had been found near Elephant dam after the southern stations had spent all morning tracking them in a large circle, starting first thing in the morning near Elephant dam! Needless to say, the lions weren’t where they had been left in the morning, but instead had moved to Vielmeter camp and were sleeping in front of the camp at the waterhole. Elliot and Herald went straight through there, while I took my time a bit further north along the banks of the Nhlarulumi riverbed where there was a large herd of elephants feeding. A good number of young males were about and making a nuisance of themselves which caused the matriarch of the herd to chase them off! A bit further down the road there were some young bull elephants fighting, and a very relaxed herd of elephants which fed within a couple of meters of our vehicle. Further down the same road we encountered yet another large herd of elephants, but didn’t hang around as we wanted to see the lions. The six Sohebele lions were still at the Vielmeter waterhole, and watched intently as a small group of kudus approached the waterhole for a drink. The lions were lying in the open, on a sandy patch, so had absolutely no cover, but they all lay flat and dead still, watching as the one female kudu approached to about 15m from the one lioness. The kudu stopped and stared at the lions for a relatively long time, and I was really surprised how long it took her to register that these ‘things’ a few meters from her were lions ready to pounce if she came any closer! The kudu eventually realized what was going on and sounded the alarm before turning around and running off, but the lions didn’t even bother chasing her, instead they moved to the north before settling down and watching a distant herd of seven giraffe. I left them with Giyani who continued to follow them as they half-heartedly stalked a steenbok, before inadvertently chasing an unknown female leopard up a tree! I was only a few hundred meters away so waited my turn to go and see this scene, but the lions lost interest after a minute or two and moved off, and the leopard jumped down and ran off in the opposite direction. I had a brief sighting of her as she crossed the Machaton riverbed, and assuming it was Rockfig female leopard, I made my way around to the other side when the Vielmetter camp staff called to us that there was another leopard in front of their camp, as I was right there I wet to see if I could find her, but had no luck. The other leopard had been relocated and it was ascertained that it wasn’t Rockfig as I had though, but a slightly nervous female that was soon lost moving into a Mopane thicket. I tried one more time to find her, but had no luck, so I headed back to camp. The other sighting that Palence had on Thursday afternoon was of the three Mahlathini male lions resting on a termite mound about 2km west of Peru dam, which begs the question as to which lion we had tracked into Klaserie?

Still, it is a nice question to ponder, as at least it means that our lions are eventually back!

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