Rangers Diary 9 – 15 September 2012

An elephant calf imitates its mother
An elephant calf imitates its mother

Sunday

On this morning’s drive, we were really hoping to see some cats. Unfortunately there were none to be found anywhere, and we had to be satisfied with seeing the larger members of the Big Five. We saw several herds of elephants, and found a rhino bull sleeping next to the road. We also saw a group of 12 large buffalo bulls.

On our afternoon safari we once again saw buffalo and elephants. After our sundowner break, we were very excited to find two leopards. It was Mvula and Ntima together. We followed them as they walked around. It was clear that Ntima had one thing on her mind, and that was to mate – and we actually did get to see them mating a few times. Ntima was very successful at enticing Mvula!

Monday

As we started our on our morning drive on a chilly, wet morning, we knew that it would be a bit tough to locate animals, as they would be likely to be tucked away in the thickets, trying to keep warm and dry. Eventually we found a set of male leopard tracks in the east, and after a short tracking exercise we managed to locate a young male leopard. We followed Xivambalana, the young male leopard, as he moved from termite mound to termite mound, using the height of the mounds as a vantage point from which he could scan his surroundings in search of a meal. He came to rest on a large termiterium in full view of us, where he began to groom himself and eventually nodded off.

Heading out east from the lodge in the afternoon, we responded to a white rhino bull sighting. We battled to maintain visuals of the large bull as he moved quickly through the thickets and eventually out of sight. On leaving the sighting we spotted two Tawny Eagles perched in a small Marula tree. As we drew closer, they flew off and on closer inspection under the tree, we saw the remains of what looked like a small common duiker. We realised that there was likely to be a leopard nearby. Making our way to the closest water source, we located yet another young male leopard, Wabayise, who was now lapping up water. Shortly after seeing him, he moved off from the pan and lay down in very thick grass. Our views of him were limited, and now satisfied with what was a great sighting, we departed.

One of our fellow rangers found three young male cheetahs, as well as a female cheetah, who were elevated on a termite mound as to get a 360 degree visual around them. They didn’t stay with the cheetahs long due to the fading light.

An elephant cow suckles her calf
An elephant cow suckles her calf

Tuesday

First thing in the morning we went in search of the cheetahs that had been spotted the previous evening. They were located and followed by a fellow ranger, who saw the four cheetahs bring down a young impala ram right next to the vehicle. We moved to the sighting and watched as they finished up the kill and began grooming themselves. Leaving the cheetahs and making our way south in search of lions, we bumped into Thandi, one of the territorial female leopards in the east. We were unable to follow her as she crossed into a very thick block of bush. We did, however, notice that she had fresh suckle marks on her mammae, so hopefully soon she will treat us to a sighting of her youngsters, which have still not been located.

One of the rangers who had headed north, managed to find three leopards – two females and one male. They were Ntima, Karula and Mvula – the large territorial male of the area. Ntima and Mvula were mating, so Ntima had been following the male and she had now moved into Karula’s territory. No fighting ensued, and Karula lay down close by, watching them as they mated.

With the day starting to heat up, we made our way back to the lodge, briefly passing by a small waterhole. Here we found a large white rhino bull, Londoz. He moved toward the waterhole, marking his territory out by spraying urine on either side of the road, and eventually stopping at the waterhole for a drink.

This afternoon, after having had a very hot day, we knew we were likely find some of the thick-skinned mammals close to the water sources, so we headed to target the waterholes. At one we eventually found a number of buffalo bulls lying in the cool water, ruminating. We heard the sound of breaking branches nearby, so we left the buffalo bulls to investigate, and found a nice breeding herd of elephants that were on their way to the water. We followed them as they picked up pace and arrived at the water, and then watched as they splashed, sprayed and slurped up the water, enjoying its coolness and quenching their thirst.

Wednesday

This morning the four young cheetahs were found again, and we followed them as they went to a small waterhole for a drink. They were very relaxed confident as they played around the waterhole. We were very pleased to find Thandi as well, and she had a duiker kill which she had put up in the branches of a tree. She was rather aggressive towards the vehicles, even though everyone kept a fair distance from her. We are not sure, but we suspect that her new cubs might be somewhere close by, which may explain her aggression. We decided to leave her in peace and made our way back to the lodge – passing a herd of elephants on route.

This afternoon we found elephants and a buffalo bull. We then went looking for Thandi again, but there was no sign of her at the duiker kill site. Maybe she had gone to where she is hiding her cubs. We were very lucky to find a lone wild dog running steadily up a road that leads to the northern boundary. Then we saw Mvula again, and followed him into some thick bush. It was difficult to keep up with him. He was obviously interested in some animal close by, but we could not see anything and lost sight of him as he disappeared into the thick bush. We waited for a while, and suddenly a warthog sped out with Mvula in hot pursuit. The warthog ran towards a large termite mound, but Mvula grabbed it in front of us. We moved closer as the sound of warthog squeals filled the air. There was a large hole in the termite mound, which was obviously the warthog’s home, and Mvula had managed to grab it a mere three metres from safety.

Thursday

We headed out in search of lions, as they had been scarce over the previous few drives. A large herd of buffalo had been spotted making their way west from the Kruger Park the previous evening, so we hoped that there may be a few lions following them. Unfortunately reports claimed that the lions had stopped a few metres short of our boundary. We did, however, come across the four cheetahs that had been hanging around the area recently. Usually they move on fairly quickly, but thanks to their successful hunting in the area, they had chosen to hang around for a while. We left the sighting to make space for another game vehicle, and heard reports later that the occupants had witnessed the cheetahs taking down a small duiker.

We then decided to follow up on Mvula, the large territorial male leopard from the east, that had killed a big male warthog the previous evening. We found him sleeping on top of a termite mound with a full belly, the kill still lying on the ground as he had obviously had no pressure from hyenas yet.

On the way back to the lodge we relocated a large breeding herd of elephants, which we watched as they pushed over the Bush willows, digging for their roots.

One of the rangers went to follow up on Mvulu, who they found with his kill which he had now hoisted into a large Marula tree, a few metres from where we had seen him in the morning. He was unfortunately back on the ground. Thanks to the frequent kills he had made over the previous few days, he had a very fully belly, which would have made it very uncomfortable for him to sleep in the tree.

Moving east we found a large herd of around 600 buffalo moving down to a waterhole for a drink. Unfortunately our visibility became limited due to the fading light.

On the way back to the lodge a call came in over the radio saying that four lionesses had been sighted, and identified as being “the breakaways’. This was great news, so we made our way in and watched as they moved north through the thickets in the direction of the lodge. They were definitely looking for a meal, as every so often they would come to a halt and listen, lifting their noses to sniff the air to ascertain whether there was any game up ahead. They soon came to rest right behind the lodge.

Styx lions grooming
Styx lions grooming

Friday

We had a very good morning drive, and saw two rhinos as well as the large buffalo herd again. Mvula was also still hanging around his warthog kill. Then we found two lovely adult male cheetahs strolling up the road, heading to the northern boundary. We followed them until they crossed the border. We had a fantastic surprise when the Styx pride was found on a female buffalo kill. They must have been following the herd, and had managed to kill a female during the night. Three of the females and all four youngsters were lying around the carcass, their bellies filled to capacity.

This afternoon we saw another rhino and a large herd of elephants. We went to check on Mvula, and found him still resting next to the tree in which he had placed his kill. He was feeding very slowly, and there was still a fair amount of meat left on the carcass. We also went to check on the Styx lions again, and they were still lying where we had seen them, with their half-finished kill nearby.

A vulture at the Styx kill site
A vulture at the Styx kill site

Saturday

It was a cold and wet morning, and there was little to be seen. Mvula had moved on, and there was nothing left of the buffalo kill. Gogi, the old female, was the only lion still busy with the leftovers from the lion’s kill.

This afternoon it was still raining and we did not see much. In desperation we went back to the warthog kill, and luckily Mvula had returned to finish the last of the warthog.

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

Until next time,

The Arathusa Team

 

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