Friday, 12 November 2010

The Week That Was!

In trying to keep up with trends this weeks blog is in the form of a prequel. Ok, so the time of prequels has come and gone I hear you say, but to be fair I did say TRY, and anyway things in the bush happen when they happen.

So what has happened this last week? Well things got off to some what of a slow start, specially after hearing Chad's adventures of the previous week, but I was fortunate enough to visit the Jacaranda Pride and their new additions with him, that softened the blow on missing out on what was an incredible week.

Getting back to our past week things may have started slow but boy did they take off, so much so you would be excused if you mistook it for a space shuttle launch. So I'm going to keep it to a few highlights of the week or I'd be here forever!

As per usual our trusty Leopards were out in force, even more so this last week, if that is possible. The pick of the sightings must go to Argyle Male, Kuhanya, Shongile and an unfortunate female Impala. We entered the scene with the Impala up in a Knobthorn tree at Motswari's Bush Braai site and Argyle Male resting in the shade below, nothing out the ordinary. What was to follow justifies the saying, “you can't judge a book by it's cover,” or maybe it should be, “ things don't always appear as they seem.”

As over the next two days three different Leopard were found feeding on the same Impala. Argyle Male obviously dominated and chased off the others that snuck in while he was off in search of water. In light of three Leopards visiting the same kill a game of Mystery Murder ensued. My money is on Kuhanya, I think she killed it and was chased off by Argyle Male. We know for sure that neither Kuhanya or Shongile could lift such a large female Impala into the tree, and even if they wanted to both of them tend to leave their kills on the ground. So the hausting was definitely the work of Argyle Male, their father.

What leads me to believe it may have been Kuhanya is that she was around the area a day prior and also the way she hung around the area always waiting for an opportunity to sneak in and grab a bite. Shongile was only seen once, she may have just stumbled across the site while in the area, I have seen her snooping around before but then leaves the scene and never returns. Another fact that indicates it was one of the ladies and not Argyle Male is that he appeared to stumbled onto an Impala foetus, that he duly ate, it must have been discarded when the female Impala was disembowelled. Thus indicating that he was not there at the time of the kill and that he accidental walked onto the site where the act occurred and more than likely stole it fro one of the females.

Unfortunately the sighting only lasted three drives, with three Leopards feeding in shift, it was never going to last long. No matter who done it, it provided a glimpse of the interactions between Leopards, which is pretty rare and was totally fascinating to witness.

Skipping back to the present quickly, both Kuhanya and Argyle Male were found yesterday, being Thursday, on their own separate kills. Kuhanya had killed a Steenbok on Mostwari Southern Access and Argyle Male a Warthog North of Argyle Dam wall.

Staying with Leopard, there has been a name change. Not a hundred percent sure why, it could just be following the countries suite in changing names or it could be that it contravened FIFA's regulations and registered trade marks. No matter the reason, Zakumi from now on will be referred to by her new name, Tumbela, which means, “Hide”. Personally I like the change and think it's quite fitting, given her habit of using the Hide at Hide dam as her own kaya (home). It could also be interpreted as another indication of her growing independence, having now moved out of home. Like her aunt, Nkateko, she has taken a liking to Hide dam and can often be found in and around the area.

On the Lion front, we had the Mahlatini's at the beginning of the week but they managed to give us the slip after an evening of heavy rain in the South, wiping out any tracks. As the days passed without Lions we widened the search area, checking all areas possible but still came up empty handed, it was if they disappeared into thin air. Then three mornings ago, Giyani, a guide at Java, our self catering camp, radioed in that he had heard Lions calling not far from camp, we needed no second invitation and headed to the area on mass to give a hand in following up. Whilst all this was going on Diff radioed in tracks for what looked like two females in the West. His message was somewhat lost in the prospect of finding the more reliable Mahlatini's, and he was left to follow up alone. You would think with six vehicles, as many guides and trackers, you'd be able to find a Lion within a square kilometre, yet it was proving impossible. As time passed the vehicles started to move off in search of other creatures as we found no tracks or signs in the area. It was at this point, as it so often is, that Elliot found a lone Mahlatini Male on a young Buffalo kill. Still not sure how he did it but none the less he found them. With that went the last remaining thought of the two female's tracks in the West as all stations responded. Diff however persevered but at the close of drive that morning he had come up empty handed. Not to be beaten he mentioned that he would resume his search on afternoon drive.

Come afternoon drive Diff was straight to it, again not getting much support as everyone had seen Lion that morning. We were now in search of Rhino, so we headed off to the East, try our luck with a visiting Rhino from Kruger. After spending some time looking our Irish Luck changed and we found a large White Rhino male, I would not say he was the most relaxed Rhino, but given his space he allowed us to view him.

It was while watching him that I got a message from Andri that the White Lions had been found. I was dumbfounded and had him repeat his message. Still not believing my ears and wanting to confirm with the person who had found them I contacted Diff. After it being confirmed my mind was shell shocked! What rhino? Where were the White Lions? How was I going to get there as quickly as possible and why was I still sitting here, stationary! Looking back on it now, I wish I took a photo of Jacky's face when I told him the news, it also luckily answered the question why I was still standing still, he nearly fell off his seat! His face had a look of total disbelief, confusion, shock, surprise and excitement all at the same time. Gathering himself quickly his immediate question was, “ Why were we still sitting here!” Not letting on our massive secret we made our way to the sighting, whilst on standby we did let on that we were about to see something extremely special and asked our guests what they thought it might be. Strange how the immediate answers are always what people hope to see, but are quickly followed by a conservative second preference, as if to spare themselves disappointment. The hopes, Pangolin, Cheetah and Wild Dog. The second preference a Pride of Lion. I guess nobody was disappointed. Pulling into the sighting it had just gone dark, so you could not get the full effect of the scene and the total extent of the contrast between the Tawny and the White cubs, none the less everyone immediately realised what they were looking at. A deathly silence descended over the vehicle which was slowly replaced by a string of stuttered questions that quickly gained momentum as people got over their initial shock and surprise. Once explaining our White Lions story, the vehicle again descended into silence, this time I think it was in awe!

The following morning together with Diff we tracked and found them some way from where they had killed and fed on the two Buffalo calves. Seeing them during the day you could now clearly see the difference between the tawny and the white. It was fantastic as we got to spend a fair amount of time with them as there were not many vehicles out on drive. It was great to just sit in silence and take in everything as they went about their daily doings. Having to leave them is always the hardest part as you never know these days when you will see them again. Reluctantly we left, hoping that they will find a place where they will be safe and are able to live in peace and out of harms way!

As has become the norm when the White Lions are away, all the Lions disappear but when they return, Lions spring up everywhere. Apart from having the Mahlatini's in the area another two females and a young male popped up at Voel dam in the far North West of our traversing area the same day.

To keep you right up to date, this morning the White Lions were found again, not very far from where they spent the day yesterday. The Mahlatini's were also found, they too have moved. The good news being that they must have passed one another during the night without encountering one other and are now hopefully heading in opposite directions. I will keep you posted of any new developments.

News Flash: Friday 12 November 2010.

White Lions found this morning on a Zebra kill near Mkombi Pan.

All three Mahlatini's found at Voel Dam with three adult Lionesses.

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