This week, we had some unexpected visitors to a number of our sightings. Elephants chasing leopards. Leopards walking between rhinos. Rhinos chasing lions. Leopards watching lions feeding. Leopards killing baboons. Camp Pan at the kill of his son the Maxabene Young Male (well, perhaps that one was expected based on the dominant male’s recent tendency towards food theft!). Wherever we turned, it seemed the different species as well as individuals were interacting in exciting ways. Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A female steenbok, the smallest antelope in our area, pauses from feeding.
A curious young male elephant gave us a chance to view some of his features up close! After circling our vehicle, smelling us, he stood in front and tilted his foot, picking it up and scuffing it back and forth. This is a behaviour elephants commonly display when contemplating their next move. But you can clearly see his toenails, and the grooved underside of his soft feet. It is always surprising to people to learn that elephants make almost no sound as they walk, due to this soft foot sole.
We were surprised to find the Maxabene Female deep in the heart of the Vomba Female’s territory twice this week. Risky, perhaps, but she managed to steer clear of any conflict.
The Maxabene Female has always been a favourite of mine, a petite leopard with tattered ears and a tendency to walk around with her mouth open – which is how I immediately knew it was her. We think she may have been pushing territorial boundaries to find a male, perhaps.
A dazzle of zebra drink at Circuit Pan. For obvious reasons, zebra are among the most fun animals to photograph at the water!
They kept their tiny foal concealed within the group as they splashed through the water.
Last week, the grand finale was an incredible sighting of the Camp Pan Male fighting the Dudley Riverbank Young Male in a tree for the youngster’s kill. This week, Camp Pan managed to score another meal in similar fashion. Here, he feeds on an impala ram that was killed by his son, the Maxabene 3:2 Young Male, while the victim of his new theft sulked nearby. Unlike the Dudley Riverbank Young Male, however, his son knew enough to not challenge him again!
There is a lot of talk lately about the giant crocs around Londolozi. During the winter months they can often be seen sunbathing on the banks of the river and waterholes, but this year it seems as though there are many more resident monster crocs! It has therefore been put forth to the rangers a challenge to try and ‘measure’ the crocs, obviously done through photographs and not the croc hunter wrestling method. Watch this space to see what we find, and definitely expect to see more croc photos in the weeks to come!
A young giraffe stands at attention. She was part of a small nursery group of youngsters who, on a blustery morning, were very concerned with the scent of lion in the air. Luckily for them, the pride had moved on, but the lingering scent had them on their toes.
A Sparta lioness – the ‘older pale one’ – looks bloodied and scratched after feeding on a wildebeest kill. In an exciting track and find one morning, we tracked one of the lionesses who had gone to fetch her three cubs to take them back to where the four adults had killed a wildebeest. With seven hungry lions feeding, the carcass didn’t last long. But the elder lioness seemed content to let the rest of the pride have the majority – after all, she is the only one not nursing cubs at the moment.
The cubs were enjoying the scraps and the bones by the time we found them, clearly having fed sufficiently, however, judging by their full bellies.
As typical in prides, the lionesses groomed each other after feeding. Not only does this aid in cleanliness, but the scent rubbing that occurs during allogrooming is important to strengthen and maintain the bonds between the pride.
The lions weren’t alone that morning, however. A hyena watched them from a safe distance, waiting for its turn after the lions had finished. Also, during our sighting the Maxabene 3:2 Young Male leopard appeared! We were shocked at how close he came – and stayed – to the lions without them noticing. Eventually, after about 15 minutes, he came to his senses and quietly snuck off. There is always plenty of competition for a meal in the bush!
The large herd of buffalo rests mid-day, lying down and ‘chewing the cud’ or ruminating.
A rather pregnant zebra mare drinks. Zebra do not have a particular time of year when they give birth, and it has been shown that the survival rate of foals increases when the births within a herd coincide, regardless of time of year.
The Vomba Female lies well-camouflaged in a Jackalberry tree. Behind her was her hoisted kill – a young baboon! Baboons aren’t common prey for leopards as they can actually be a threat to leopards and are dangerous to hunt. Plus, they don’t seem to taste very good – as evidenced by her lack of interest in the carcass and abandonment of it the following morning.
A young kudu bull stares from atop a termite mound.
The last bit of sun peeks over the Drakensberg mountains.
The resident croc in Ronnie’s Dam has earned the nickname ‘Gustav’ after the largest Nile Crocodile known to man. The Londolozi ‘Gustav’ even took out a male lion a few years ago – a formidable predator. Now, however, his status as Londolozi’s biggest has been put into question so again – watch this space as we gather our info!
The second time we found the Maxabene Female out of her territory, she was hunting bushbuck close to the airstrip. Later that evening, a tragedy occurred – one of our ranger and tracker teams found a dead leopard in a similar area. It turned out to be a nonresident young male which none of us had seen before. We all felt guilty in our relief that it wasn’t one of the familiar faces of Londolozi, but very sad about the death in any case. The cause of death is unknown but being investigated by the Sabi Sands vets.
Despite being the most common mammal to see on a Kruger area safari, the impala is arguably one of the most difficult to photograph! Here, a young female posed for us while grazing.
The candidate from Maidie’s Dam – a large croc stretches towards a stork flying closely over. Who will gain the title of the biggest croc at Londolozi?
A young male zebra gives us a curious glance.
This was a very interesting yet unfortunately nonphotographable sighting! The Dudley Riverbank Young Male seems to have learned that catching catfish in the local mudholes is a much less risky way of securing a meal than catching an impala, and defending it from Camp Pan! After feeding on a few unlucky catfish, the mud-covered young male leopard slept in the long reeds. A rare sighting of a normally sleek and clean cat!
An elephant cow walks close to us, letting us get an up-close view of her tough skin and long eyelashes.
One morning later in the week we set out after lions calling north of the Sand River. There, we found the older Tailless female, unsettled in the thick mist.
It turns out she was trying to capture the attention of one of the Majingalane Males – the Dark maned one – in order to mate with him.
Meanwhile, nearby, the Scar-nosed Majingalane sat quietly. The mist cover that morning added a unique and beautiful element to our morning drive.
As the mist lifted, the lions continued mating. They were particularly aggressive with one another!
One of our final sightings of the week was made more interesting by an intruder in the midst of the Maxabene 3:2 Young Male’s honeymoon with the Tamboti Female. A young bull elephant lurked in the thick area and kept chasing the two leopards who were trying to mate!
After hiding in a thicket while the elephant finally moved off, the Maxabene 3:2 Young Male and the Tamboti Female decided to take a break from mating for the day. Instead they slept under the thick cover. Despite the lack of ‘action’ we stayed with the young leopards and shared the intimate moment with them. The male seemed to be wanting to camouflage himself, with all the sand and vegetation stuck to his pink nose!