Wednesday, 12 October 2011

7th, 8th and 9th October – The Jacaranda Pride Puzzle!

Photo of the Day

07th October - Morning Drive
2 x rhino
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Peru, Giraffe Kill Rd
4 x buffalo bulls – Argyle, Long Rd

07th October - Afternoon Drive
(Herald, Godfrey and Marka)
5 x Lions (Jacaranda Pride – 2 lionesses and 3 cubs) – Buchner, Buchner Access
1 x leopard (Thumbela) – Vielmetter, Bluewaxbill Rd
1 x rhino
8 x buffalo bulls – Buchner
2 x elephant bulls – Buchner
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Vielmetter, Vielmetter Access

08th October - Morning Drive
(Herald, Godfrey and Marka)
4 x lions (Jacaranda Pride and Xakubasa Lioness – 3 lionesses and 1 cub) – De Luca, Drongo Drive
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Java,  Java Camp
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Mbali, Java-Mbali Rd
2 x rhino
3 x buffalo bulls- Motswari, Southern Access

08th October - Afternoon Drive
(Herald, Godfrey and Marka)
4 x lions (Jacaranda Pride and Xakubasa Lioness – 3 lionesses and 1 cub) – De Luca, Drongo Drive
5 x Lions (Jacaranda Pride – 2 lionesses and 3 cubs) – Buchner, Buchner Access
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Peru, Giraffe Kill Rd

09th October - Morning Drive
(Herald, Godfrey and Marka)
1 x leopard (Kuhanya female) – Peru, Boolala Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Jaydee River Rd

09th October - Afternoon Drive
1 x leopard (Kuhanya Female) – Argyle, Long Rd (found again at Motswari Camp)
2 x rhino
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Mbali River Rd
2 x buffalo bulls – Mbali, Mvubu Crossing

Daily Synopsis
Apologies for the lack of updates over the weekend, but both Grant and I were away – Grant on his leave, and I “popped in” to Johannesburg to go watch Coldplay in concert - a different sort of viewing all together, but equally enjoyable!
Herald and Marka were joined by Godfrey in the bush, and it seemed as though there was some generally good viewing of the Big 5.  The most pleasing aspect was the return of at least a couple of breeding herds of elephants into the area, although the breeding herds of buffalo remained disappointingly absent.
Herald recounted two enjoyable drives to me: one saw him heading into the remote north-eastern corner of our traversing area – we occasionally go to Buchner more for a change of scenery than to see game, but Herald, Magic Herald, didn’t disappoint!  Besides ticking off elephant bulls, buffalo bulls and a large male rhino, he added another Big 5 member in the form of 5 lions feeding on an old elephant carcass!
These lions added a few more pieces to our “Northern Lion Puzzle”.  The Jacaranda Pride (which incidentally was also found this weekend with their small cub and still in the company of the one Xakubasa pride lioness) has a habit of splitting up and rejoining with other portions of the pride from time to time.  The old granny that we refer to as Kokwane is most notable for this trait!  Amongst other things, she was found with the White Pride when they were first seen on Tanda Tula (way south) in December 2009.  Two weeks later she was with the now-displaced Jacaranda (or Umbabat) males on Buchner.  She then spent time with two younger lionesses as a core of the Jacaranda Pride when we were viewing them at the beginning of 2011.  Even when we saw the Jacaranda Pride for the first time in 6 months at the end of September, Kokwane was with one other lioness and the young cub.
Three weeks ago, she single-handedly killed a young giraffe on the Motswari-Ingwelala boundary, but then she disappeared and hasn’t been seen with the Jacaranda Pride and cub since then, instead being replaced by the younger Xakubasa lioness.  Last week, I saw Kokwane on Ingwelala with one of the lionesses of the Jacaranda Four (as we dubbed a break-off that consisted of one adult lioness and three sub-adults).  The problem was I only saw the two adult lionesses and the back’s of the other lions, so didn’t realise that they were not actually the subadults.  This was proven on Friday, when Herald found the two adult lionesses and three 14-month old cubs! 
We now are of the opinion that these three cubs are in fact the three cubs that were born to the Jacaranda Pride at the end of 2010!  As they were absent from sightings of the Jacaranda Pride over the last few weeks, and with the Mahlathini males having taken over the Jacaranda Pride, we naturally assumed the worst and thought that they were dead.  Evidently not!
BUT, this goes against everything that “should” happen.  Why?  What is so strange about finding two lionesses and three cubs?  Well, it is strange as the cubs don’t belong to either of the lionesses I saw on Ingwelala!!!  While I still need to confirm this to be certain, from what I saw last week, the mother does appear to be absent; she may just have been absent from the sighting, but it is interesting never the less.  And if she does turn up, who is the third lioness with the Jacaranda Pride with the small cub? 
The actions and activities of the Jacaranda PRIDES over the last few years has been very interesting to say the least, but equally frustrating to try and piece together what exactly is happening, as we seem them far too infrequently to full understand the dynamics of this long-standing pride!  I will try and put together a family tree of the lions to help you (and the other guides...and myself!) try understand their partially-known dynamics over the last few years, and will post it on the blog, but for now, I am just pleased that it appears that all three cubs are alive and well!
Heralds other enjoyable drive was yesterday afternoon – after staring off with leopard near camp, he ticked off buffalo, elephant and rhino within 1km around Mbali Dam!
I went out with Dave and Thea for a little bumble and a sundowner, and of course, left my camera behind....needless to say we found Kuhanya ourselves – three times!  First after the game drives had lost her.  Then Marka followed her into Ingwelala, but knowing her habits, I suggested we go wait at Motswari Corner – a little picnic spot on Ingwelala-Motswari boundary – and while sitting watching the sunset, Kuhanya came walking right through the picnic spot, scent marked the table and chairs and came down onto the rocks just as I had envisaged!  I mentioned then that she would later come into camp, and sure enough, while eating my dinner, she came walking past the pool area!  Amazing how animals really are creatures of habit!!!
Anyway, I leave you with a few pics I snapped of some wild dogs on Ingwelala last week, the day after I had seen them on Motswari (again without a camera, you think I would learn!!!)
I’m back on drive on Monday afternoon, so will resume my full blogging duties then J


Wild dogs on Ingwelala - they had been on Motswari the day before :)

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