Weekly Cyberdiary Update 26 January - 01 February 2009

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Weekly Cyberdiary Update 26 January - 01 February 2009

Rollercoaster Male - image by Nico Kortenbout Styx pride lionesses and cubs – 26 January 2009

At the beginning of the week the Styx pride spent their time lying on Campbell Koppies trying to escape the heat of the day. That morning that had managed to relieve a leopard of its kill. Rangers had unfortunately not been able to see the leopard as it had probably seen the lions coming from a distance.

The lions approached the scene of the kill from northern side of Campbell Koppies and had to climb a tree to steal their prize. One of the younger lionesses was unable to find a decent descent down the trunk and ended up falling quite a distance - thankfully with no injuries, but much to the amusement of the rangers and guests at the sighting. Lions typically are good climbers on the way up a tree, but very poor clumsy creatures on their return to mother earth. Her delay in getting down the tree meant that she missed out on feeding from the carcass. The Styx pride, showing their usual customary ferocious feeding activity, consumed of the scraps very quickly. The Rollercoaster male didn’t even bother getting involved, and instead looked for some good shade to pass the day away.

The lionesses then left the area and headed for the koppies for some cool shade and relieving breeze. That night the pride was once again to harass a poor leopard for a kill. As the sun set over the Drakensburg mountains, the pride awoke from their slumber and started heading for their usual feeding grounds around Piccadilly Triangle. They slowly meandered down the hill until reaching the edge of the open area. That evening an old “acquaintance” of the Styx pride, the Newington Male, had killed a young impala in the open area and had dragged it into the thickets, hoping to avoid detection. Unfortunately for him the pride picked up the scent and headed almost directly towards where he was starting to feed.

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With caution one of the younger lionesses approached the area. She could obviously smell the kill, but was unsure as to what could be in the area. Getting within just a few metres of the leopard, she suddenly spotted the cat and leapt into the bush to try and wrestle the kill from him. An experienced leopard such as the Newington male had stashed the kill right at the base of a large Jakkelberry tree, and seeing the lion approaching had gotten ready to spring up the tree if necessary. Seeing the lion run directly at him, he grabbed his kill and ascended the tree in great haste.

Perplexed, the lions circled the tree trying to find a way up. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts (and falling ungracefully on her back) the young lioness gave up and decided it would probably be easier to catch a couple of impala rather than risking her life climbing a 30 metre high tree. Leaving the area, the lionesses went in search of easier prey.

Rollercoaster male lion – 26 January 2009

The Rollercoaster male, in true fashion, slept right through the day. After realising the pride had moved off without him, he began mournfully roaring - trying to find them again. The pride was clearly reluctant to answer, and so after we left him lying at Northern Side Campbell Koppies. He continued to roar in an effort to find them.

Rollercoaster Male Lion - image by Bruce Archibald Gowrie male and blind female leopard – 26 January 2009

With all the rain we are experiencing here at MalaMala, the grass has grown extremely long making it difficult to view leopards once they are found. Luckily, this pair of leopards was found in a very open riverbed in the Northern section of MalaMala. This was especially lucky because they were seen mating almost immediately on our arrival.

The Gowrie male spends a lot of his time north of our border and he had not been seen for some time. As always, he is looking very healthy and strong and has fortunately lost the limp that he had a few weeks ago. The other leopard is a leopard we see very seldom, and do not have a name for as yet. Her distinguishing feature would be that her left eye is clouded over, and it is likely that she is blind in that eye.

It was initially thought that she was nervous as she retreated into thick grass when a couple of vehicles approached, but it became clear that she was just relaxing after a very busy morning, needing a good rest for a few hours. That night though, the two leopards were very active - mating every 5 minutes.

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Bicycle Crossing Male Leopard - image by Andrew Bachelor Newington male leopard – 26 January 2009

The Newington male leopard was found by a ranger who had been trying to find the Styx lion pride near Campbell Koppies. Looking rather thin, the leopard headed straight for Piccadilly Triangle and it wasn’t long before he found a large herd of impala to stalk. The long grass in that area provided excellent cover for the leopard to approach the impala without them noticing.

Yet the wind was not in his favour, and soon the impala picked up the scent of the leopard. Unable to see him, they panicked and ran in all different directions. This proved fatal for a young impala which ran straight into the Newington Male. Attempting to jump over the leopard proved insufficient as the leopard jumped up and snatched the impala in mid air. Even before hitting the ground, the leopard had locked its jaws around the poor beast’s neck, and within a couple of minutes the antelope was dead.

Being left in the open, the leopard began dragging the carcass to a safer area where he could eat in peace. He dragged it for a good 300 metres before settling down in a large spike thorn thicket. This hiding strategy was inadequate as the Styx pride sensed something was afoot, and headed straight towards him.

On spotting the lion, he hauled the carcass up a large Jakkelberry tree and looked down on the disappointed lions from his superior perch. They attempted to climb the tree, but were unsuccessful, and they eventually left him to his prize.

Cheetahs – 26 January 2009

Four young cheetahs were found at Clarendon Dam in the morning. They are probably from the Kruger National Park area and are not used to seeing vehicles, so they kept their distance from the ranger and guests. They slowly moved eastwards towards the Kruger National Park, and it was decided to leave them be. Hopefully they will come back and become more

relaxed with time and patience.

Styx pride lionesses and Rollercoaster male lion – 27 January 2009

After roaring the whole night previously, the Rollercoaster male managed to meet up with two of the Styx pride lionesses. These two must have split from the group that evening, or just simply lost the group during hunting. Nevertheless they were found lying down at

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Senegal Bush. They remained there the whole day until evening when the females got up and started moving north. The male was once again too lazy to get up.

Styx lion pride and cubs – 27 January 2009

The Styx lion pride must have caught something the night before, because they were looking well fed when found on this morning. They had also only moved slightly south of their position from the night before. Sleeping throughout the day, they got up in the evening and were left in Piccadilly Triangle – clearly not really interested in hunting.

Newington Male Leopard - image by Nico Kortenbout Newington male leopard – 27 January 2009

The Newington male spent most the day eating his proudly won carcass, and was seen sleeping at the base of the tree in the evening.

Kapen female leopard – 27 January 2009

The Kapen female who had not been seen in quite a while made an appearance in the Kapen River near Styx Crossing. We know that she has a very small cub in the area, and were therefore reluctant to follow her in the long grass. We also found very small leopard tracks in the area.

The Kapen female, in her usual style, was quite grumpy - so we left her. Hopefully at some stage we will get to see her cub again, and it will grow up to be a relaxed leopard, but for the time being we will bide our time until she is ready to show us her youngster.

Cheetah – 27 January 2009

The young male cheetah which has been seen on MalaMala recently was once again found near Wild Dog Rocks open area. He had finally “deflated”, and looked like he was ready to hunt again. Unfortunately he did not accommodate the excited rangers and guests, and proceeded to sleep throughout the day. He must have gotten up during mid day and moved off as we could not find him again in the afternoon.

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Styx lion pride, cubs and Rollercoaster male lion – 28 January 2009

The cubs of the Styx pride were found this morning lying on top of some koppies near Campbell Koppies. The females, at this stage, were not present. After watching the cubs for about 20 minutes, a lone lioness appeared from the south - looking out of breath, but walking with definite purpose. She was then joined by 3 other lionesses. They quickly collected the cubs, and started headed straight south and east. Walking quickly and jogging, they covered a lot of distance in a short amount of time.

Slightly confused, the rangers followed - expectant of something major ahead of them. Yet after following the lions for over an hour, they seemed to be going nowhere but were still walking with great purpose. On their travels, they had obviously killed a young kudu and eaten it, as some of the cubs found the scraps and fought over them. Unperturbed by this brief interruption, the lions continued on their march.

The rangers really battled to follow them through some thick grass, but they luckily relocated them a few hundred metres away, still walking quickly. One of the rangers decided to go ahead and scout the area, as a very strong smell of carrion had began to waft in out direction. After some searching and following the lioness in the lead, the ranger stumbled upon a very large dead male elephant. It had obviously died a day before, but was completely uneaten. The Rollercoaster male had a small amount which had satiated him for the day. On arrival at the carcass, the lions began feeding with their usual ferocity. There was very good feeding activity, but this carcass will no doubt last a good week. Absolute heaven for these kings of the “jungle”.

It is unsure how the elephant had died but it is suspected that another elephant had killed it. Eyrefield lion pride – 28 January 2009

After a long absence, the Eyrefield pride was seen again near the airstrip, sleeping. That night they got up and went hunting on the airstrip very briefly before heading west, and off our property.

Kikilezi Female Leopard - image by Bruce Archibald

Kikilezi female leopard – 28 January 2009

While doing a clearance run for the airstrip so that the scheduled Airlink flight could land, the Kikilezi female was found stalking impala in the long grass to the west of the strip. She gave

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up on the impala, and went to lie in a tree until the afternoon where she was lost in the thick acacia thickets.

Cape hunting dogs (wild dogs) – 28 January 2009

The pack of 14 Cape hunting dogs were found sleeping on our border road near Beaumont’s Camp. They headed west in the afternoon.

Styx lion pride and cubs – 29 January 2009

Having begun to eat the elephant, the Styx pride did not leave the area of the carcass for some time. Unfortunately there is no water in the immediate area, and so they left temporarily to find some. There was one amusing incident when one of the lionesses caught a vulture which was attempting to steal a morsel. After a lot of growling and playing with the poor creature, the vulture was eventually let go - minus plenty a feather!

4 Eyrefield male lions – 29 January 2009

The four Eyrefield male lions were found sleeping at Mlowathi Dam during the morning drive. It appears that they have come down south for a brief reconnaissance trip to make sure no other male lions had moved further north of Mlowathi Dam. They slept until sunset, then got up and moved north over our border.

Cub of the Ngoboswan female leopard – 29 January 2009

As usual, the Ngoboswan female left her cub in the vicinity of Bushbuck Drive, near Rattray’s Camp. The young cub was seen playing and chasing francolin for the whole morning drive until she got tired and fell asleep in long grass. This very confident leopard survives long periods of time without her mother, and is probably catching a lot of small prey to supplement the diet her mother provides for her. She was not relocated in the evening.

Eyrefield Male Lion

Eyrefield lion pride and Rollercoaster male lion – 30 January 2009

During the morning drive, the Eyrefield pride had gotten wind of the dead elephant and had headed in that direction. They were fairly close to the scene when the Styx pride, which had moved a distance off, roared - announcing their presence to the Eyrefield pride. There was a brief exchange of roaring until the Eyrefield pride turned around and walked south. This was

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interesting because the Eyrefield pride is a larger pride in terms of size of animals. The difference is the lack of confidence showed by the younger lions, (+- 2 years old) which would no doubt cause them to be unwilling to engage in a fight.

Nevertheless, the Rollercoaster male (which has spent very little time with the Eyrefield pride) headed in their direction, and met up with the pride after only a short period of time. The young male in the pride did not see him approaching. He was pounced upon and taught a quick lesson by the bigger lion. The young male got up, stumbled a few feet away and then lay down to sleep again. The Rollercoaster male seems to tolerate him, but makes sure that he is known as the dominant lion of the pride.

Styx lion pride and cubs – 30 January 2009

After the roaring exchange with the Eyrefield pride, the Styx pride got up and moved slightly further west. For the time being, it appears that they have abandoned the carcass (there was still at least 70% left of it). Perhaps they think it will attract too much attention, or perhaps they would rather eat fresh meat ….. Ttime will tell if they return. For the moment though, the carcass is left to the vultures. Even the hyenas are ignoring it!

The pride slept in Matshipiri Open Area during the day and then headed west in the evening, back to their old hunting grounds at Piccadilly Triangle.

Cub of Ngoboswan Female Leopard - image by Bruce Archibald Cub of the Ngoboswan female leopard – 30 January 2009

Still awaiting the return of her mother, the Cub of the Ngoboswan female was seen still playing and moving around south of Rattray’s Camp. She provided some excellent viewing until we left her to head back to camp.

Newington male leopard – 30 January 2009

Back to where he killed his last impala, the Newington male was seen sleeping in some long grass at Piccadilly Triangle. We looked for him in the afternoon, but were unable to relocate him.

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Cheetah – 30 January 2009

Late in the morning of the 30th, the young male cheetah (which has been seen frequently on MalaMala this month) turned up at Clarendon Dam. This area has recently had 4 young sub-adult cheetahs for a while, and the older lone male could obviously smell their presence as he was scent marking at regular intervals - keeping a close watch. He slowly headed south into some long grass and then fell asleep. He was not relocated in the afternoon.

Styx lion pride and cubs – 31 January 2009

After a lengthy following of tracks, the Styx pride was eventually located in the Ngoboswan Donga, near camp. They had done a large circle that night, probably visiting the larger impala herd, and finally ended up near where they had began. By keeping a good presence in the area near camp, no other lions have made advancements anywhere near – leaving the cubs undisturbed for some time now. This is a good thing, as if they survive the next 5/6 months, they will be old enough to hold their own and will have a very good chance of survival. That evening they got up and walked north towards Piccadilly Triangle. Here they attempted to hunt impala, but without any success.

Ngoboswan female leopard and cub – 31 January 2009

After a lengthy absence from her cub, the Ngoboswan finally re-emerged from wherever she had been and collected her cub from south of Rattray’s Camp. The two were found walking south near Flockfield Tower, and it is suspected that she had made a kill and was taking her cub to it. But after following for a long time, it appeared that she was just fetching her cub to move her to another place. We left her going westward towards our boundary.

Hippopotamus

Newington male leopard – 31 January 2009

This leopard has spent the last four days in the Piccadilly Triangle area, probably because of the good hunting in and around the whole area. At night though he was clearly not keen to hunt, and was left sleeping at the side of the road.

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Ngoboswan female leopard – 1 February 2009

This resilient leopard was found near West Street in her usual hunting area, stalking impala. As is her tactic during this time of the year, she was stalking through the long grass in the middle of the day when it seems the impala let down their guard just slightly. During the hot days, the antelope tend to move into the shade of nearby trees, providing predators with an opportunity for better hiding areas in which to hunt. Most leopards do not really hunt during the day, except this one, sometimes at the hottest time of the day.

Unfortunately we did not get to witness a kill, but after trying for a good 45 minutes she decided to have a rest, and start again when it was a bit cooler. She got active again before we started the afternoon game drive, and we were unable to relocate her.

Cape hunting dogs (wild dogs) – 1 February 2009

A private car on the way to MalaMala spotted the dogs near Rattray’s Camp. They quickly told someone on their arrival at the camp, and it was not long before a ranger had relocated the dogs. They were well fed and sleeping on the side of the road. They did not move until nightfall when they headed west into our neighbor’s property.

Cheetah – 1 February 2009

In one of the most scenic areas of MalaMala (the Windmill area), a cheetah was found actively searching for prey, having come in from the Kruger National Park. It was very relaxed and was moving between termite mounds, climbing them and looking for prey species. It was not long before he spotted some impala, and actively started hunting them. The impala though were aware of his presence, and he could not get close enough to make a run at them. He went to sleep under a large Spike Thorn thicket.

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