Greetings all! I am back at work after a wonderfully relaxing leave that didnt involve climbing mountains and tracking around East Africa, but did include a great deal of relaxing. Arriving back in the reserve, it was evident that no meaningful rain had fallen, and the green carpet of flowers and fresh grass that I left was now a distant memory. The trees, especially the mopane trees, had filled out with leaves giving the illusion of greenness, but that was about where it stopped.
On a game viewing front, things had been fairly good for the team, although as usual, leopards became a bit more difficult to find as the bush thickened up. Inkanye female was found mating with Madzinyo way, way down south. Tshwukunyana male had followed his brother’s movements and was seen close to the lodge a couple of times, seemingly having given up on the central regions – this clearly caused Shongile concern, and last week she was found attempting to mate wit the new male in the area to distract him from finding her cub. Sadly, this was of no help, and the guides and guests awoke on Sunday morning only to see the body of a leopard draped over the branches of one of the marula trees opposite the lodge – concerns arose that it could be Shongile, but on closer inspection, it was found to be her cub that had been hanging around the camp for the last week. Although no one saw the incident, it appears that a male leopard likely attacked and killed it, and either hoisted it up there himself, or the cub ran to the tree following the attack, and ended up dying there. I side with the former explanation. Either way, Shongile’s 10-month old boy is no longer with us. Shongile also killed a nyala in camp during the past couple of weeks, right next to reception.
On the lion front, although the Mbiri males were seen in the south, the Sumatra lioness in the east and some Ross females in the south west, it was the eleven members of the Western Pride that provided the best viewing as they spent much of my leave on the property – partly as a result of the female giraffe they killed in the north. The one-eyed male is not doing well at all, but the rest of the pride, including the strong male are looking in great shape.
The temperatures were in the high thirties the day I arrived back, but by Wednesday a strong wind had brought with it cold and cloudy conditions, and this was what I awoke to on Wednesday morning, quite happy that I wasnt on drive…until I heard that the guides and already found the Western Pride resting east of camp, as well as a pack of wild dogs in the north, so suddenly I was keen to head out in the afternoon with some return guests of mine. It turned out to be a fantastic start – except for the fact that my other four guests hadnt arrived.
We began with checking up on the nine lions and found them resting with fat-bellies about 1km east of the lodge, in the same place they were left in the morning – although not much action, some members were up and down, and we had a good view before all their heads flopped down and we moved on. Whilst at Argyle Dam killing time until the wild dogs woke up, we saw baboons, impala, kudu, waterbuck, hippos, crocodile and giraffe before we were notified that Ntima male leopard had just killed an impala not too far from us, so we went and joined the station where Ntima was already up a marula tree with his impala kill and busy to pluck its fur out. He started eating its rear end and after a good sighting of him, we headed off towards where the wild dogs had been left, and we arrived just as the pack got active for the evening. We followed but the only things they came across to chase were some hyenas, and chase they did! They got hold of one of the adult females and did a job on her that left her bloody-bottomed before leaving her, satisfied that they had gotten their message across. We followed for a while longer but as it was getting dark, we left them when they moved into a thick area and went for a drink, after which we headed back to the lodge very happy with a wonderful start, and happy that at least we would be abel to show our new guests some leopard, and hopefully with such full bellies, some lions too tomorrow!