Ranger’s diary 28 July to 3 August 2013

Styx pride
Styx pride – Robin Hester

Sunday

This morning we first found one young Styx male lion walking around, all by himself. He was walking swiftly, probably in search of the rest of the pride. We left him and looked for the others, finding them resting next to a waterhole. We watched them for a while, but the young male never arrived – we’re not sure where he went. After leaving the lions we were extremely lucky to find a beautiful young male cheetah resting on an open area not too far from the lions. Hopefully he will be able to stay out of the way of the bigger, stronger cats.

This afternoon we were very surprised to find the older Styx female mating with the remaining five year old Nkuhuma male lion on the northern part of our area. Her youngsters are all grown up now, and she’s clearly ready to conceive again. We also found the other four Styx pride members still resting close to where they had been in the morning. The surprises continued as we unexpectedly found two Majingilane males close to the southern boundary. As we watched them, the young Styx male we had seen earlier in the day, appeared. They noticed him and moved towards him, and he turned and ran away. The Majingilanes roared loudly. This male is their offspring, but it is clear that it is time for him and his brother to move out of the area.

Pangolin
Pangolin – Robin Hester

Monday

This morning we headed east in search of leopards. We were in luck, as there was a sighting of a female leopard, and we headed straight towards where she had been seen. On arrival to the sighting we noticed it was one of the female leopards that we see quite regularly – the Ostrich Koppies female. It is over four months since we last saw her. We followed her for a while and she led us straight to her kill. A large impala bull was stashed in a guarri thicket, and we watched as the Ostrich Koppies female fed on her kill. A young leopard unexpectedly popped out of the guarri tree – her cub was so relaxed with the vehicles that it walked right up to them! We watched in awe as the youngster ran around, playing with it’s mother. We pulled out of the sighting and not even 200 meters away, we found a male cheetah. He was hunting some impala in the distance, and was in stalk mode. This is the same cheetah that we have had a couple of sightings of that has a bad limp. Although he was very thin, he appeared to be in good health. After an unsuccessful hunt, he found some shade and lay down to rest.

This afternoon we headed straight back to the area of the Ostrich Koppies female and her cub. On arrival we found a horrible scene. There was a large unknown male leopard on the kill, and he kept chasing the Ostrich Koppies female as she kept trying to get closer. We suspected she was trying to see if her cub was okay, as she continued to harass the male. The male also charged at the vehicle. It was an unknown male that wasn’t habituated with the vehicles. We decided to leave the area and give the animals space. Infanticide (when males who are not the father of the cub, kill it) is a common practice amongst predators, and we left the sighting, hoping that the young leopard cub that had stolen our hearts in the morning was still alive. The two Majingilane males – ‘hip scar’ and ‘smudge’ were found on the Kruger boundary on a young buffalo carcass. We headed that way and, on entering the sighting, Rifos pointed out to Robin that there was a pangolin 10 metres away from the lions! Without any hesitation everyone’s focus was off the male lions, and straight onto the pangolin. We watched as the scaly animal ran around the area of the lions, hoping that the cats would not notice it. We spent ages with the pangolin, before returning to the Majingilanes to watch them feed on the young buffalo carcass.

Wild dogs
Wild dogs – Robin Hester

Tuesday

This morning we headed north and found the Styx female and Nkuhuma male lion at exactly the same spot they’d been seen at previously, and they were actively mating. We were keen to look for leopards, but decided to follow a group of seven wild dogs instead. It was a very good decision, as we caught up with them a minute or two after they had killed an adult impala. They finished the kill in about twenty minutes, and then went to rest in a riverbed. We went looking for the leopards after that, and found the Ostrich Koppies female, and the two males Mvula and Lamula very close together. The males were very unhappy with each others’ presence, and were growling aggressively and salivating. They remained about a hundred metres apart, and there was no actual fighting however.

This afternoon we decided to head east, hoping to find the wild dogs again, as well as the leopards. Unfortunately the dogs had moved off and we were unable to find them. We drove for a long time, following the many leopard tracks in the area, but without any success. We decided to stop for sundowners, and shortly after resuming our drive, came across Mvula walking around, roaring loudly to proclaim his dominance in the area. Lamula and the Ostrich Koppies female were nowhere to be found.

Wednesday

This morning we found the Styx female and the Nkuhuma male, still enjoying their ‘romantic encounter’. We also found all six other Styx lions at our airstrip. They were steadily moving north, and we had difficulty keeping up with them as they moved through a very dense area. Eventually they all went to rest around a large termite mound. We also found a large herd of elephants feeding as we were returning to the lodge.

On our afternoon drive we were unable to find the Styx female and the Nkuhuma male again. It seems that they have now gone their separate ways. We found the rest of the Styx pride resting around the termite mound and followed them through the bush until they came to a waterhole, where they had a drink and then lay down to rest again.

Lamula
Lamula – Robin Hester

Thursday

This morning we found the Styx pride harassing the resident herd of wildebeest on our airstrip. There were also 10 giraffes and a herd of zebra there. The young sub adult lions were causing chaos, running towards the herds. The Wildebeest, zebra and giraffes would all run away, before quickly regrouping and making their way back to the airstrip to see what the lions were up to. It was a very amusing scene. The lions were not really hunting, but the four sub adults were in a playful mood and looking to cause trouble. While this was all going on, a male cheetah was found in the very far east near the Kruger border. We headed straight there and as we approached, a beautiful large male cheetah walk out onto the open plain. He posed beautifully for everyone, and continued to walk out in the open area. A common duiker caught his eye, and he launched like a rocket into the thicket. He ran so fast into a drainage line that we could not find him again. We all know that the cheetah is the fastest land mammal on earth, but it was truly incredible to see this cheetah in action.

This afternoon we decided we wanted to see the Styx pride. So we planned to go to them last as they would really only get active in the early hours of the evening. On our way to them we had some great viewing of a big herd of elephants and two buffalo bulls. The sun was starting to set so we made our way towards the Styx pride and on arrival we found them grooming and yawning which is a good sign they were going to get mobile soon. The second oldest lioness started roaring. After that they got up and started to head north. She roared again but this time it was met with a response. The young Nkuhuma male lion came out of the Mwolathi river and started to chase the young Styx males. They manage to get away but there were lions running everywhere. We lost visual of the four sub adults in the chaos. We tried to stay with the Nkuhuma male but he was on the trail of the young Styx males and we could not keep up with him as he went into very thick terrain.

Thandi
Thandi – Robin Hester

Friday

This morning we heard that Thandi and her cub had been found in the east, and we responded immediately. When we came across them it was difficult to follow, as they moved towards thick bush. We managed to keep up with them as they kept changing direction before coming to rest in a thicket. We noticed that the cub was playing with something. He stood up and had a squirrel in his mouth! We are not sure whether he caught it, or whether Thandi killed it and gave it to him to play with. The youngster was enjoying his ‘toy’ and kept showing his little prize to his mom.

This afternoon we were planning to head north for the lions, as a number of tracks had been seen there in the morning. As we headed in that direction, we had a sighting of a herd of elephants. There must have been 30 of them, and they were enjoying a drink at one of the dams just before sunset. As we headed back to the lodge, a Nkuhuma male lion seemingly appeared out of nowhere on the road. He was steadily moving west, and was probably looking for the Styx pride, which he had been chasing yesterday.

Rare sighting, a secretary bird
Rare sighting of a Secretary bird – Robin Hester
Impala watching a leopard walk by
Impala watching a leopard walk by – Robin Hester

Saturday

This morning we found five of the Styx lions as they were walking towards a waterhole. They were a great distance from where they had been chased by the Nkuhuma male previously. We were very lucky to see the Ostrich Koppies female leopard again just before she crossed the southern boundary.

This afternoon we found a few buffalo bulls and a herd of elephants on our way to see what happened to the Styx lions. We found all five of them still resting lazily where we left them this morning. The highlight of the drive was when we again found the male cheetah resting on an open clearing just before sunset. He had come far west from where he was last seen, and was a safe distance away from any of the lions.

And that brings to an end yet another spectacular week! Remember to visit our Facebook albums to see more photos from our game drives.

Until next time,

The Arathusa Team

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