For me, this last week has been characterised by, not only a distinctive shift in the seasons but also by the changing predator dynamics on Londolozi too. I have seen three leopards for the first time, which includes the Anderson 4:4 male, the Dudley Riverbank 5:5 male and the young Xidulu female. We are unsure of what has happened to the Gowrie male but his absence has definitely marked the steady approach of seldom seen leopards into his previously held territory, which has been very interesting to watch.
The dwindling presence of the Mangiliane males also continues to keep the lion dynamics interesting and this week, I was able to see two of the Matimba males for the first time. These lions as well as some of the prides, have been taking advantage of the dying days of the dry season and have been found on some large kills, including a hippo and two buffalo, which has kept them on Londolozi and provided for some really fantastic viewing.
Although unseen for the last few days, the pack spent the early parts of this week, hunting and moving in the southern parts of Londolozi and we always count ourselves lucky to see these highly endangered animals. One of my favourite sightings of them was watching the pups trying to suss out a large male giraffe, who seemed just as unsure of these yapping youngsters as they were of him.
And not only has the large game abounded but with the first flash of rain; new birds continue to return, frogs have begun to call and snakes are more prolific once again. The highlight of the week, in this regard, was seeing a young puff adder attempting to eat a bird. A sight seldom seem out here.
So with the promise of the new season, so too it seems comes the promise of ever-changing animal dynamics around us. I hope you enjoy being filled in on these shifts in my Week in Pictures.
Two lionesses from the Mhangeni pride snap at each other whilst attempting to feed on the remains of a hippo. Despite it being a huge animal with a lot of meat on it, the hide is very thick and difficult to penetrate. Thus once the lions have found an opening, they tend to fight for that particular spot to feed from.
One of the younger Mhangeni males chews on the foot of the hippo. He eventually managed to dislodge it and took it off to feed on in the safety of a thicket away from the rest of the pride. The hippo has a very thick skin, which is why the lions ate from the softer meat on the face first, resulting in this rather macabre scene.
A lioness rests on the rump of her kill. Whilst the rest of the pride continued to feed around her, it seemed she thought this made a rather comfortable cushion to lay her head.
A giraffe feeds on a bone as the sun rises behind her. Although giraffe are predominantly browsers, they will sometimes eat bones, particularly near the end of winter, to replenish deficient calcium in their diet.
A group of wild dog pups approach a pan for a drink. Although they are young, they are still aware of potential dangers and approach warily to make sure that there are no crocodiles lurking in the shallows.
A Southern White-faced Owl perches next to the road, allowing us this special moment to view it so clearly. These birds are only about 27cm tall but can catch small mammals and birds such as Laughing Doves, which are almost the same size as them.
The Dudley Riverbank 5:5 male rests beneath the tree he had hoisted his kill into. This is not a leopard we see very often on Londolozi, as his territory extends further into our neighbours in the east. He is about nine years old and his face and ears suggest he has had many battles during that time. His torn right ear is clearly visible in this side-lit shot.
The Mashaba female attempts to scare off a hyena who is grabbing the stomach contents of her kill. One of the Mashaba female’s cubs clumsily dropped this part of the carcass whilst feeding in the tree above and the leopard was unable to grab and re-hoist it before the hyena leapt on it.
One of the Mashaba female’s cubs shows its distaste at the approach of a hyena. Although these cubs are only just over 4 months old, they are already showing signs of how quickly they are learning.
A wild dog watches its pups intently from across a waterhole. Despite all the potential dangers in the bush, this pack has done incredibly well with this litter so far and has not lost a single pup.
A young wild dog pup takes a quick drink of water. Dogs really enjoy water, however this pup was unsure if there were any crocodiles in the pan and so didn’t spend much time at the water’s edge.
A group of wild dog pups harass a large giraffe bull. Despite his enormous size, he seemed unsure what to do with the pups and kept spinning in circles, apparently unsure whether to run away or not. The pups also seemed very intrigued by this strange creature, allowing us the opportunity to catch this rather unique shot.
An adult wild dog feeds on a full grown nyala kill. Despite their relatively small size, these animals are incredibly successful and proficient hunters, allowing them to bring down prey much bigger than themselves.
An African jacana rests on the muzzle of a hippo. Quite often birds such as oxpeckers, herons and jacanas will use the hippo as a platform from which to drink.
A young puff adder feasts on what looks like a type of robin. This snake has cytotoxic venom, which results in necrosis of the flesh. Despite not being the most venomous snake, it is responsible for more bites and fatalities in Africa than any other snake due to its habit of not moving away from approaching footsteps. Instead it blows out air as a warning, hence the name puff adder.
The Anderson 4:4 male looks up at us in between mouthfuls of grass. Although he appears rather menacing in this photo, he was more concerned with dealing with his upset stomach at the time.
A zebra drinks from a waterhole in the southern parts of Londolozi. After the recent rains, this area is beginning to green up and more animals are moving back towards the grasslands.
An elephant and her calf come to drink, bathe and feed in the cool, clean water of the Sand River. These animals are highly water-dependent, meaning we have been lucky enough to watch vast numbers of them around the river during the dry season.
A Matimba male, a new-comer to Londolozi, looks towards his brother, who is feeding on the remains of a buffalo. We saw this same coalition a few days later chasing the Tsalala pride across the Sand River, who made a lucky escape from these large males.
The Dudley Riverbank 5:5 male gazes up at his hoisted impala kill. We are not sure how he lost his sight but despite having lost his depth perception, it is obvious that he is still more than capable of hunting successfully for himself.
Written and Photographed by Londolozi Ranger Amy Attenborough