Saturday, 24 September 2011

23rd September – White Lions Return Pink!

Photo of the Day
White lions turn pink as the tuck into a warthog killed in front of us!

Morning Drive
(Chad and Herold)
3 x lions (Xakubasa Pride – 2 white lionesses and 1 young male killed warthog) – Mbali, Woza-Woza Cutline
2 x rhino (2 females)
7 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Camp
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Jaydee River Rd

Afternoon Drive
(Chad and Herold)
3 x lions (Jacaranda Pride x 2 lionesses and 1 x Xakubasa adult lioness with giraffe kill) – Argyle, Oppikoppie Rd
3 x lions (Xakubasa Pride – 2 white lionesses and 1 young male) – Mbali, Woza-Woza Cutline
1 x rhino (male rhino)
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Illegal Crossing

Daily Synopsis
This morning’s weather wasn't great, but at least it wasn't raining!  It wasn't only for that reason that we all enjoyed it, but rather it was because of our first sighting of the morning.  After being tipped off about some lions that had moved into Mbali property, I headed straight over there, keen to follow up.
We found the lions resting on a termite mound and approached them; there were three lions – one tawny young male, and two white lionesses!  Our Xakubasa Pride had returned, albeit without their mothers.  The concern with young lions being on their own is always about how well they can hunt to keep themselves healthy – these three looked in good nick, and we stopped the vehicle to take some pics.
My attempt at a lion portrait - she moved too quickly...the warthog didnt move quick enough!
I had literally clicked my shutter as the one white lions head swung to her right (hence the blurred pic!), and as I lowered my camera, there was a puff of dust out of the mound, and in that instant, two warthogs came flying out of the hole in the mound!  The first ran off to the north and the second to the east...the one that ran to the north ran to safety, the one that ran to the east ran straight into three lions that had been waiting for the moment, and in that instant, they proved just what efficient hunters they have become, even at a young age, and caught and killed the squealing warthog right in front of our eyes, no more than 15-20m away!  Wow, what a treat!

White lions catch and kill a warthog!
We spent some time watching them, but news of the return of these special lions caused much excitement, and pretty much all the vehicles in the reserve made their way to see them, so we left them to feed in peace – the only down side was that our white lions had now turned pink!

Pink lions!
We carried on and found a nice herd of zebras at Mbali Dam as well as some warthogs, but not a great deal else.

Zebras at Mbali Dam and warthogs
I needed leopard, so wanted to go south, but decided to check around for some rhinos first, and after finding some tracks for a couple of them, ended up finding two female rhinos feeding near the road.

Female white rhinos
After a cup of coffee, we carried on our leopard search in the south, but had no luck, although we did find tracks for Mbali on Java, but we were out of time to follow up.  We didn’t see much else besides impala and many steenbucks, but we were all delighted with our magic morning!
In the afternoon, I carried on my seemingly pointless search for leopards.  In the last few days, we have barely even seen a track for the northern leopards, and this afternoon proved to be no different. 
I tried the Wedge, but found nothing but impala before arriving at Argyle Dam.  There we found a nice herd of waterbuck and a lone hippo.
Waterbuck herd
We decided to go see the Jacaranda Pride on their giraffe kill again, and found that they were still there, although the cub was not present – perhaps with the hyenas around, the mother had hidden it somewhere?

Vultures and Jacaranda lionesses at the giraffe kill
While watching them, I made a discovery.  The Jacaranda Pride consists of three lionesses.  I recognised the mother and her half-ear.  I recognised the other lioness.  But the most recognisable pride member, Kokwane as we call her, was not there.  She has a prominent scar on her face, and with a large scar on her underbelly is unmistakable.  But she wasn't present.  Instead, the third lioness that was clearly part of the pride was younger, bigger, yet still very familiar.  It then dawned on me that this was one of the mothers of the white lions, one of the adult Xakubasa lionesses!

Xakubasa lioness with Jacaranda Pride!
While it was a surprise and at least let us know where at least one of the mothers was (the other we suspect is off mating with the Mahlathini males), it was the first time we had seen these lions together for a long, long time!  At the end of 2009 when the Xakubasa Pride first arrived, they were in the presence of Kokwane (about 20km outside of her usual territory mind you!), but she disappeared.  This is the first time since then that we have seen them together!  Not to say they haven’t been together prior to this, but as the pride resides off our property, we find it hard to track their lives. 
So how could this lioness be so well tolerated, especially with a new cub in the pride?  Well, seeing as the Xakubasa lioness was born into this pride in May 2004, it is still her natal pride, and it shows how well lions recognise one another and welcome back relatives even after extended periods of absence!
The question that remains unanswered is as to why the subadult white lions are on their own?  Was it the Jacaranda Pride that scared them off because of the small cub, or was it the Mahlathini males?  How permanent is the split, and how permanent is the union?  Could we possibly see the merging of the prides into a wonderful family of 5 lionesses, 2 white lionesses and a cub, led by the 3 Mahlathini males?   Maybe a dream, but you just never know with our lions!
Anyway, we shall have to wait and see what happens.  What we didn’t have to wait too long for was our next sighting.  Unexpectedly a relaxed male rhino was found up in the north, so we went to relocate on him and enjoyed a sighting of him in the last few minutes of sunshine.

Male white rhino
Trying still for leopard, I made my way along the Nhlaralumi hoping to get lucky with Klakisa and her cubs, but saw only elephants before stopping for a drink.
In desperation, I pushed further south to Java to check for Mbali, but found little besides a lot of wind, a small spotted genet, bypassed some zebras and saw two spotted eagle owls before closing down.
I now have one drive left to find a leopard – something that I confidently told me guests would definitely happen during their four-night stay...surely I can’t be wrong!


  1. Well, good luck with leopards Chad! I am sure you will get one at least :-)

    Interesting story with all the lions. I hope they do merge and become one big pride, that will be to their benefit, especially the safety of the white lions. And who knows, maybe they settle in your area then... One can wish


  2. Thanks again for the photo's Chad. Please send greetings to Johannes and keep up the good tracking. Johannes knows just where to find the leopards.
    Enjoy your week.
    Bye now.

  3. Great to see the white lionesses doing well - thanks for the update Chad!