The Majingilane returned to their old stomping grounds of Ximpalapala this week, which wasn’t good news for their sons the Tsalala Young males, who were forced to beat a hasty retreat way into the south. The trio of young males have been found in the vicinity of the koppie almost daily, so to finally be forced out must have come as an unpleasant reality check. Since the departure of the Matimba males, they have been existing on borrowed time, not being pushed out by either their fathers or new males, and it was only a matter of time before someone came in to give them the boot. Having said this, they were back at the koppie barely 24hrs later, although since ranger Nick Kleer heard them vocalising only a few days ago, it probably won’t be long before they draw too much attention to themselves and get kicked out for good.
No one is entirely sure who fathered the Tailless female’s latest litter, being denned on top of the koppie, so the debate about their survival chances is heated.
Look for a full lion update coming soon from ranger James Souchon, but for now, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A lone elephant bull makes the most of the rapidly-subsiding level of the Sand River to drink his fill. This bull was heavily in musth, a condition in which he is constantly dribbling urine, so needs to drink more than normal to keep himself hydrated. Musth bulls are reported to be able to drink 500 litres of water a day to compensate for their fluid loss.
A pack of wild dogs all pause in their running to listen intently. A small herd of buffalo was in the thicket line ahead of them and they spent a good ten minutes harassing the bovines, making half-hearted attempts to isolate a small calf but without much success. They eventually moved off, leaving the herd slightly ruffled.
Nature often presents natural framing opportunities, in this case a thicket of Tamboti trees lining the road. The rest of the pack were out of picture to the right, and the two dogs in frame were waiting for them to catch up again. With the denning season for wild dogs fast approaching, everyone across the Sabi Sands is keeping fingers crossed that at least one of the local packs will choose to den on their property.
A leopard’s tail can tell us a lot about its mood, and as in many mammals in the wild, is often used as a communication tool between individuals. The Ndzanzeni female’s tail here was slightly damp after a recent downpour.
A cub at the local hyena den looks on as a younger member of the clan gets attention from its mother. Evenings are a wonderful time to spend at the den, as much grooming and social interaction takes place between adults and young, before the big females head out to forage for the evening (adult males are generally barred from the den due to their lower social status than the females.)
A slightly unruly cub that had strayed too far gets relocated back to the den by its mother. Spotted hyena cubs get their spots at between two and three months of age, so this one is probably only around 10 weeks old.
A pair of tawny eagles on a clear morning rest atop a dead marula tree. The individual on the left has a greyish beak, so is more than likely a juvenile, and has yet to develop the yellow beak of an adult, as seen on the one on the right. A pair of tawny eagles has been nesting on the crest opposite the Londolozi camps for the last few years, so this is more than likely one of the adults with their latest chick.
A red-lipped herald snake. This little individual was lying stationary on the road, looking just like a stick, and was almost run over as a consequence. This probably explains its temperament, as no sooner had I crouched down to take a photo of it than it struck out readily. Thankfully these small snakes, although aggressive, are completely harmless to man.
The local pair of fish eagles on a murky morning, perched on a dead knobthorn tree overlooking a waterhole close to camp. The male and female of the species are almost indistinguishable in appearance, although the female is slightly bigger and has a slightly broader white chest patch. Their call is the easiest way to tell them apart, with the male’s call being slightly higher pitched.
Vultures at sunset. This particular group was overlooking an impala ram kill made by the three Majingilane males, although with the sun going down and an impala not going particularly far between three big lions, it is doubtful whether the vultures ever got anything substantial to eat.
The Majingilane with the missing canine looks eastwards to where the roars of another lion were emanating from. Immediately after this, the Dark Maned and Scar Nose males got up and began moving in that direction, leaving the male pictured here to finish what was left of their impala kill.
The Dark Mane and Scar Nosed males head towards the distant roars. It turned out to be the sub-adult lioness from the Tsalala breakaway pride, although exactly who she was calling, we can’t be sure. Most likely her brothers, the three young Tsalala males, who had fled south the night before, most likely to evade the Majingilane.
The winter mornings are nearly upon us, and this morning was the first time this year that gloves were almost necessary out on drive. The golden light is lasting longer and the impala rut is in full swing. This young impala ram is too young to properly compete in the rut, and will have to bide his time for another couple of years before he will get his chance to try and mate. Here he looks towards where some older rams were battling it out over a nearby group of females.
The cub of the Ndzanzeni female shakes himself off after being soaked by a late-season rainfall. This cub is roughly 9 months old now, so will most likely remain with his mother for another 9, despite probably being almost the same size as her by then, if not bigger.
The cub looks along the trunk of a fallen marula tree to where his mother was grooming herself, as the rain began to fall again.
Allowing his mother to groom him in some of the places he is unable to reach himself. As well as keeping him clean, this grooming serves to reinforce the bond between mother and cub.
Three dead knobthorn trees line up near Weaver’s Nest Pan for a sunset silhouette.