Saturday, 10 July 2010

All we see are spots!

This weeks story takes place after a somewhat slow week by our standards and we have had to work hard for our sightings. It has not been helped that the White Lions have taken it upon themselves to take a vacation during this busy period and have crossed over into the Kruger Park. So going from a Lion around every corner we currently struggle to find this now very elusive cat, if I were superstitious it could be thought that I jinxed it with my last blog, so this weeks blog is filled with Impala and Mopani tree stories. ( Not that I have anything against either!)

Lucky for us Leopard have come to our rescue this last week with a buffet of sightings to choose from. Rockfig Jnr and her cubs, now named, Zankumi (2010) hers, and Mabarhule ( Big foot) his, are consistently seen and it's amazing how big they have become and how independent they are, with mom leaving them alone for longer periods. It's a great site to see when they reunite, the cubs get so excited and playfully run riot.

There seems to be a trend amongst the Leopards at the moment ,as a great many of them seem to be pushing the limits of their territories, if not venturing into the unknown. Rockfig Jnr & co. have been pushing South, while Kuhanya has headed East. Shongile and Argyle Jnr female and her cub have also become very active in and around Motswari, with Shongile taking things a little further and spending late night in camp itself, once she was found in the bar area and on another occasion she took shelter from a chilly winters night in the breakfast area. Unfortunately only John the night watchman was privy to these late night sightings. Ntombi and her cub are being seen more often and the cub appears to be settling around the vehicles. A notable exclusion is that of Mbali, she has become quiet elusive, having only being seen a handful of times over the last couple months, the last being when she was found mating with a large unknown male. She also appears to be spending more time in the South west of her territory, an area she spent in her younger years. I'm still trying to piece things together, who roams where and who's related to who, it gets rather tricky, especially when dealing with who dad may be, as there is now a very large leopard that we are seeing more often, that seems to a very large territory and roams extensively. If I'm not mistaken he is the father of Rockfig Jnr's cubs, as we have seen him in both the North and the South. I going to go out on a limb here and say that he is bigger than Argyle male, although he does have a smaller narrower head, his body appears bigger. It may be the fact that he is not as relaxed as Argyle male and that also makes him come across as being bigger and tougher.

Having said all that, leads me into my story this week, and what may come across as a contradiction to my previous writings! Let it be said that I did not say that Argyle male is not tough, I merely mentioned he does not “appear” as tough as this other male. I think his very relaxed nature and complete composure may lead to this summation. Case in point: I was relaxing in my room before afternoon drive a couple days back, when I heard a warthog squealing, at first I did not pay much attention to it as I have heard this squeal many a time when they squabble with one another over food, especially when a large male is putting a piglet in it's place. My curiosity got the better of me when the squealing had not stopped after a couple of minutes. I started to walk towards the noise as it was not far, thinking the warthog may have got caught up somehow. As I passed Difference, a tracker at Motswari, I asked him if he had seen anything along the way, to which he said no but now also became aware of the noise. He said that I should go back and fetch a vehicle so we could investigate. On our way out of camp we picked up Donald, a waiter at Motswari, who's curiosity had also been peaked by the continual squealing. No sooner was he in the car, we rounded a bend and there in front of us was another of my great sightings of the year thus far! Not twenty meters from the road was a leopard engrossed in a tug of war with a hyena over a warthog it had caught, but not been able to get a proper grip on the jugular. It was a large female warthog that he had caught and by not getting the correct grip she was able to get out cries of distress that must have alerted the hyena, who we all know needs no second invitation. While we sat their all mesmerised by the events that were unfolding in front of us, we realised that it was Argyle male, as he was unperturbed by the hyena and went about his business of trying to finish off the warthog. All the while the hyena was feeding off the rump of the still alive warthog. Somewhere in all of this the warthog broke free and started to swing its head and thus its tusks in defence. It was at this moment that Argyle male became aware of our presence and I think the combination of the Hyena, ourselves and the return of the warthog family, made him feel temporarily surrounded and caused him to dash into the nearby bushes, where he lay down not far from the ongoing action. The warthog was now gallantly trying to fend off the hyena, continually thrusting its tusks towards the persistent hyena, its task was made that much harder as it had the use of only three of her legs, one was lost to the hyena while the leopard had its grip on her. Eventually this was to be her “Achilles heal” as she was unstable and could not manoeuvre around quick enough, giving the hyena the chance to get around her and attack from behind. The warthog tried to pull herself free but she did not have the power or the energy left and slipped into what must have been shock as the hyena fed from her while still alive. Things happened very quickly, almost simultaneously, as all of this took place in the time it took us to pull out of the sighting, as we did not want to influence the outcome. We were pretty sure Argyle Male would return to claim what was rightfully his. Returning to the scene during game drive, an hour later, we found that Argyle Male had in fact returned and finished what he had started. He had moved the now dead warthog to the base of a large Marula tree, where he hoisted it with some difficulty into the upper branches. He then proceeded to lie out on one of the branches and take a much needed rest. The hyena was nowhere to be seen.

The location of his kill was ideal, not for the fact that it was less than four hundred meters from camp, but for the fact it was in a big Marula tree, with many branches to support the kill, and was less than a hundred meters from a pan, where he can get water. Its proved so successful that he has spent the last four days there, providing us with some other interesting sightings and interactions. Two other Leopards have visited him during his stay, Shongile and Vyeboom Dam Male, both choosing not to challenge him. As one would expect the hyenas are ever present and their numbers grow daily, waiting for him to slip up and drop them a morsel, he however sits there nonchalantly watching the world go by beneath him, only ever leaving his tree to drink water and escape the midday sun in the bushes below.

Again it has taken me a while to get this blog posted and this morning heading out on drive Argyle Male had finally moved on, wonder if he was suffering from tree sores. We found his tracks heading to the North and could hear him calling as went on his way. He must have still been feeding on the remains early this morning when the kill more than likely became dislodged and finally fell to the ever present hyenas below, as there was no sign of the remains of the warthog.

Check out our White Lion blog below for another sighting that can be added to the “ Hall of Sightings.”


  1. you still never mentioned my cheetah sighting!!!! hahaha!

    fine, i will tell everyone i saw a female cheetah drinking at nkombi pan when i was driving at motswari for a few days last month! What else did i see? Argyle Jnr female leopard stalking impala at Argyle dam, Mbali female leopard, Kuhanya female leopard at Sohebele dam and a day later way in the east at Kudu Pan...also saw the white lions as they were relaxing after eating a baby zebra whose head was still of some interest to the one young male lion...and an awesome sighting of two of the timbavati male lions and three machaton lionesses walking within half a meter of my car; definitely the highlight of the trip for my guests!

    now i have got that out the way mr murphy, nice update! so envious of that sighting...why couldnt he do that when i was there last week! also so glad Shongile is back in the area - she is a beautiful leopard and loves making heself at home in the camp - maybe she can nab that pesky monkey soon!

    enjoy your leave, look forward to hearing about all the things you missed when you get back!!!

    cheers bud

  2. great to come back to blogging from hectic soccer and see that "real" life carried on like it should have.

    fabulous pics with awesome cast!