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Spring has sprung and the bush is changing. The evenings are becoming balmy, the Jackalberry trees are shedding their leaves making room for new growth, the Knobthorns are in full flower, and the migratory bird species are returning. This week we observed this metamorphosis along with the resulting adaptive behaviours of the animals, and had one particularly emotional and intense sighting which embraced the circle of life in a different way.
We were thrilled to find the Nyeleti 2:3 Young Male on Marthly earlier in the week. This 2 year old, the brother of the Nyeleti 4:3 Young Male and 3:3 Young Female, has not been seen for a while so when we found him lying at the base of a Lowveld Milkberry tree with a baby nyala kill hoisted in it, we welcomed his homecoming!
A few days later we were treated to a sighting of his sister, the Nyeleti 3:3 Young Female. She hunted through the Guarri thickets around Nyeleti Pan, but was not as successful as her brother had been.
The weather is getting warmer! Here, a young bull elephant gives himself a cooldown with mud from Fluffie's Pan.
The dusk sun sets over the Lowveld Escarpment in a dusty haze.
The Dudley Riverbank 3:3 Young Male sits at Gerts Pan under the Magic guarri bushes. Just as we were speculating why he would choose such a spot on the uncomfortable dried mud, a group of nyala approached to drink. He lay completely flat, and was so camouflaged in the dappled light that the nyala couldn't see him from about 3 meters away! Unfortunately, that 3 meters was filled with water - too big of a jump to catch one.
A female boomslang stretches out on a Buffalo thorn branch, a further sign that summer is upon us! Her ability to see stationary objects, as evidenced by her large eyes, differentiates them from most snakes who rely on smell and movement to detect prey.
This White rhino seemed to be trying to disguise himself as a Black rhino by completely immersing himself in the mud.
The Camp Pan Male stares down at some hyenas who had chased him up a tree. They had stolen the remains of a carcass he was feeding from. However, that carcass had been stolen by Camp Pan in the first place, from his son, the Maxabene 3:2 Young Male! What goes around comes around...
Notice anything strange about the elephant on the left? He only has about two thirds of his trunk. It is difficult to say what happened to this young bull who visited Camp Dam this week, but he has adapted well: other rangers reported seeing him feeding using his tusks to pry vegetation free, then picking it off directly with his mouth. He appears in very healthy condition!
The Dudley Riverbank 5:5 Male makes an appearance near the Sand River, his facial scars clearly visible from his fight with the Marthly Male. Old habits must die hard, as he was once again in the Marthly Male's territory. Lucky for Dudley 5:5, however, the older dominant male was not around.
Just after seeing the Dudley Riverbank 5:5 Male, we saw another leopard running in the distance. Upon closer investigation, it was the Vomba Young Female who was in hot pursuit of the male after hearing him call. We followed her for a few minutes as she tried to track him by scent, but when she heard him rasping again, she ran straight towards him. He wasn't quite as interested; he completely ignored her advances and by the following morning, they had parted ways.
An elephant gave us an up close and personal glimpse of how they normally feed: using the trunk as an arm to grasp food and place it in their mouth.
The Tsalala cubs seem to have taken up residence in the Sand River as of late! The lionesses have been very successful hunting around the river, so as the youngsters grow and become more confident, they have been kept closer to the action. We have often seen them from the decks of the different Londolozi Camps this week.
During the first lightning storm of the season, one of the smaller cubs worries about the thunder. One can understand why, as this would have been the first time they have experienced a storm in their lives.
One of the Majingalane Males roars just after sunrise, proclaiming his territory. All four males came together on Londolozi this week, marking the first time in months they have been viewed as one Coalition (this was my first time to view them all at once - although they were never close enough to one another to get a photo!).
A Wahlberg's eagle. The birds are just beginning to arrive back from their migration, and are already getting their nests in order.
The South Pride Males walk purposefully across the open plains of southern Londolozi. This was to be the start of a dramatic morning.
One of the males walks away from a pan after having a quick drink in preparation for their hunt: they had spotted a herd of buffalo in the distance.
Perhaps analyzing their tactics, the South Pride Males look at the buffalo herd. They would disappear into the thicket between them and the herd, spread out and crouched, while we waited for the outcome.
In a sudden burst movement, the South Pride pounce on an older buffalo who had dropped back from the herd.
After a struggle, the buffalo collapses under the weight of the lions.
Never animals to go down without a fight, the buffalo rolls over, kicking one of the lions. Another tries to pin down the head in order to suffocate it by covering its nose with his mouth.
The buffalo gives everything it has to defend itself from the lions.
It took about 35 heart-wrenching minutes for the buffalo to finally die, from the time the lions brought it to the ground. For the South Pride, the struggle was worth it: they fed for the following four days on the carcass.