Having only fulfilled one of my three requests yesterday, this morning was about finding “leopard with cubs”. Easy, I thought, were it not for the fact that none of our leopards have cubs. As a female leopard, had walked through camp at about 5am, we opted to start off by checking the north for any sign of her, and despite having searched the area and sat for ten minutes listening for her calls, we had seen no trace of her and slowly moved out of the area; tracks for the Western Pride had moved south west. I was going to go and follow up on those tracks when Robynne called to say that she had found Shongile at Giraffe Pan – exactly where we had checked earlier. Robynne commented that it was very strange that she was contact calling, especially as both of her cubs were dead – she had even been seen mating since the hyenas got one of them and then spent a week walking around looking for the other. It was thus quite a surprise to hear that her now 4 month old cub emerged from the rocks at Giraffe Pan!!! Sadly, having not seen vehicles, it was very nervous and soon disappeared with mom in tow, and that was the last of them. I hung around, but to no avail so moved off. One amazing thing I did see was a little slender mongoose dragging a scrub hare down the road! I highly doubt that it could have caught the scrub hare itself, and perhaps it was just rewarded when it found another animals kill. Still, it was something quite unique. Angie found what she thought was the nervous Leadwood female leopard with a kill, but soon realised that it was just the Machaton male leopard – he was sadly not very cooperative and we limited the sighting to one vehicle at a time, but when i approached, he moved off and disappeared. After some giraffes and zebras and a cup of tea, we tried again and had a better view of him, but he soon moved into a thicket and went to sleep so we left him to it. On the way home, the Western Pride, now with 8 members were seen lying out in the open on Leadwood airstrip – the pink-stained necks telling of some hunting success last night.
I had new guests in the afternoon and decided to leave the lions and hope that we could relocate on the two Sumatra male lions in the south as well as possibly on some wild dogs that a contractor had seen whilst moving through the reserve this morning. And also to look for elephants that had suddenly become quite scarce. We had a gentle start to the drive and saw steenbuck and impalas before picking up elephant tracks and soon finding a small herd of elephants with a very young calf that we spent some nice time with; it was whilst watching them that Grant radioed to tell me that he had found the wild dogs in the same area that the contractor had seen them and that they were all resting well fed. I made my way towards the area passing a family of warthogs and impala before we had a brief sighting of a nervous female leopard – likely Klakisa – made more nervous by the fact that there was a hyena on her trail, and after she moved away we carried on a few hundred meters towards where the eleven wild dogs were resting as the daylight faded. With this, they started getting active and some moved down to the river before shooting back north and cornering an animal under a bush; from the growls coming out of it, i thought it was the leopard, but soon a hyena came dashing out with a half dozen wild dogs on its tail! In the riverbed, there was some relative peace between them before the hyena went up to the eastern bank and started eating what must have been the dogs’ second impala kill. At first, with only half the pack trying, the hyena kept the meal to itself, but the commission soon drew in the others, and with 11:1 against the hyena, it soon ran off receiving nips to the rear end as it went, and the pack of wild dogs got the impala back and we left them feasting as the last light faded. We tried for the Sumatra male lions, but as no one had been past the area in the afternoon, we weren’t sure whether that had stayed in the same spot all day or not, but after searching, we failed to find anything and headed back north to try the Western Pride, fearing that the 8th member would lead them back to Ingwelala. We arrived a little too late to see the spectacle of the lions climbing the tree to try and steal Machaton male leopard’s impala kill, but being a wise old leopard, he had hoisted it right to the top and out of the lions reach; we arrived as the last lion came down and the pride moved off. We spent some time watching the leopard as he groomed and cleaned up after the excitement before making our way back to the lodge for a well earned dinner after a rather good day in the bush!