Seeing the change in behaviour in the predators in the colder weather has been interesting. I remember Tom Imrie once telling me how the first hour of the morning in the depths of winter is usually just spent tracking, as leopards and lions are more often that not waiting until the sun rises before they move again, so low are the temperatures. That is exactly what has been happening of late, as the sightings have only started to develop well into the morning drives. I sat with the Mashaba young female leopard this morning while my breath was still steaming and the temperature was only a few degrees above freezing. I can’t tell who disliked the cold more; me who had stupidly forgotten my gloves at home, or the leopard, who didn’t really seem eager to do anything, even when a large female hyena came to investigate the tree in which the leopard’s kill was stashed. It was not until the Sun had climbed well above the horizon, dragging the temperature up with it, that she started stretching and getting active.
Perhaps there is some optimal temperature range within which predators find it most efficient to move around in; too cold means too much energy dedicated to keeping warm, and too hot means too much energy wasted in cooling down. It could make for an interesting discussion.
For now though, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
Not even close to Dave Dampier’s series of shots from a week or two ago, but incredibly special to see nonetheless. The Tamboti female picks up the more adventurous of her two cubs and returns it safely to the den. A number of rangers were fortunate to see similar behaviour like this over the week or so that she kept the cubs in this hollow log, but she has since moved den-sites, and the search is on again for where she is stashing the litter. Photograph by Shaun D’Araujo
One of the younger white rhinos currently being viewed on Londolozi, this calf and its mother have been seen regularly down in the south east of the property.
This hyena was one of three that were lying right next to the road on a chilly morning, one of them gnawing on an old leg-bone of some unfortunate animal. We assume they were part of the clan that operates from the local densite, so have seen vehicles numerous times and were not disturbed when we drew up close by.
An African Harrier-Hawk (formerly gymnogene) hops around a dead knobthorn tree, exploring every hollow in its search for food. These birds are specialist nest-raiders, focusing primarily on hole-nesting birds, and as a consequence will often be mobbed by the smaller avian species like fork-tailed drongos and starlings.
The back paw of the flat rock male lifts up as he carefully moves through the long grass whilst stalking a bushbuck. Leopards place their paws extremely delicately when stalking, putting their back paws in the exact spot that their front paws were, a technique known as registering, which helps reduce noise.
After an unsuccessful hunt he returned to his territorial patrol, stopping to scent-mark on bushes every 100m or so.
A small herd of elephants pause to quench their thirst before crossing theSand River one evening.
The Ndzanzeni female, easily recognizable by the spot pattern on her right cheek (three larger spots in a row with a fourth smaller one above) watches over her cub during a brief rain shower. Having lost her only previous litter in unknown circumstances, we are hoping that her current cub (a male aged almost a year) makes it through to independence.
Tracking Tuesdays; a new initiative started by tracker Innocent Ngwenya and ranger Fin Lawlor. One of the top trackers of his age in the country, Innocent has been taking it upon himself to help further the tracking education of the ranging team, and we head out most Tuesday and now Thursday mornings as well. The tracks in this picture were easy to identify (leopard, although the test was about what pace it was walking as well as a few other complicated bits of information we had to glean), but when Innocent starts testing on the tracks of grey go-away birds, kurrichane buttonquails and green-backed herons, things start getting slightly more tricky.
Ranger Greg Pingo is either confident of his answer or is laughing at the difficulty of the question. A genet had rolled in elephant urine at this point, possibly to mask its scent, and we had to try and establish what had happened from the few scrapes in the sand. James Souchon gets lower down for a closer inspection whilst Amy Attenborough confidently makes her call from the far side.
The Nanga female watches her cub stalk an elephant bull on the distant bank of the Manyelethi riverbed. With her cub getting ever larger, she is much happier to let it wander further away, and doesn’t keep it confined to a safe den, like the Tamboti female and her tiny cubs in the first picture.
One of the new Avoca males gives his mane a shake before standing up. Knowing animal behaviour is a big step towards capturing that magic shot. When a male lion gives his head a shake like this he is invariably going to stand up shortly afterwards, so be ready! Photograph by Alistair Smith
The long grass remaining from summer is dulling in colour, making the big cats of Londolozi far more camouflaged as we head into winter. The Nanga female takes advantage of a prominent game path to avoid having to walk through the thick stuff. Photograph by Alistair Smith
A photo from a recent Instagram post, highlighting the comparative peace that is usually found between crocodiles and hippopotami. The two species don’t compete for food, so are generally happy to leave each other alone.
One of the main “where-to-now?” stories currently unfolding on Londolozi is the saga of the Tsalala young males. Still occasionally seen around the koppie on which the Tailless female is still denning two small cubs, these males are nevertheless spending more time away from the breakaway pride, and having been chased by their fathers the Majingilane a few times in weeks past, as well as having the Avoca males moving in from the south, it is unlikely they will be in the area for long…