With the Nkoveni female being seen scent marking regularly around the Londolozi airstrip, it is becoming quite clear that she has expanded her territory further west into areas where her mother the Mashaba female once patrolled. Coming soon after the windfall of the Xidulu female’s territory becoming vacant, the Nkoveni female now moves through a more than large enough area in which to hunt to provide food for her growing cubs. Previously she was squeezed into a very narrow band to the east of the Londolozi camps, but now moves a long a far wider stretch of river front; prime territory for a young leopardess in Londolozi.
This begs the question of just how much territory was ceded to her by the Mashaba female, and what were the cues that prompted this territorial shift by both individuals. The Mashaba female herself is expecting a litter of cubs any day now, and it would be fascinating to properly understand the dynamic between this daughter with cubs and her mother who is about to have cubs, and exactly what signals each one gave the other during the process. The knock-on effect is that the Nhlanguleni female to the west looks like being pressured out of some of her usual haunts by the bigger Mashaba female, and who knows what will happen as a result of this movement.
It’s all pretty fascinating, and will almost certainly ensure that the territorial maps we keep of the females in the area will need constant monitoring and updating.
For now though, enjoy This Week in Pictures…
From left to right: the Inyathini male, Ndzanzeni female and her male cub. This photo is from the post earlier in the week about a spectacular sighting in which all three of these leopards shared a branch for the afternoon.
Another leopard who originated in the Kruger National Park, he has established a large territory in the south eastern areas of Londolozi.
Two young hippo bulls spar against each other in a local waterhole. Although hippo fights can go to the death, these two weren’t fully grown dominant males, and the dispute ended amicably.
A lone elphant bull wanders across a clearing in the last of the evening light, while an impala ewe keeps watch towards where the Nkoveni female leopard was hiding in a thicket. Despite using the long grass as cover and getting to within about 20m of the impala herd, the leopard was unsuccessful in its hunt.
The same sighting as the photograph above; the Nkoveni female keeps low in the golden grass, sidling in towards where some impala were feeding. Realising when they have no chance of a successful hunt, leopards will usually attempt to slink away unobserved, not wanting to attract unnecessary attention to themselves.
A young female that lives to the east and south of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
Two collared sunbirds feed on an aloe in one of the Londolozi gardens. With the aloes bursting into flower at the moment, sunbirds have been feeding in droves, presenting fantastic photographic opportunities.
A male kudu crosses a clearing in the fading light of sunset. Male kudus develop thick muscular necks after a season or two of fighting for dominance, and this male’s size showed us that he was just not quite big enough to compete properly. Within the next year or less I’m sure he will be battling other males for mating rights.
The day before full moon. Ideally I would have waited 24hrs to take this photo for the moon to be completely full, but I was trying out a 600m lens and didn’t want to waste the opportunity.
One of the hazards of the job; a flat tyre. Fortunately ranger Don Heyneke and tracker Advice Ngwenya have changed many tyres during their combined years in the bush, so made short work of this change, getting back into the sighting of the Nkoveni female with little delay!
The Anderson male in probably the first sighting in which he was ever viewed at the Sand River. He was mating with the Nhlanguleni female here, when the Flat Rock male joined the pair. Despite much scent-marking, growling and territorial displaying by the Flat Rock male, the much larger Anderson male remained unprovoked and clearly unintimidated, simply walking back to the female after watching his rival for a short while.
Unofficially the biggest leopard in the Sabi Sands, the Anderson male is an absolutely enormous individual in north western Londolozi.
Another collared sunbird (male) feeding on aloes. It is fascinating to watch how the various species of sunbird are so selective with their choice of aloe, as their varying bill lengths preclude them from feeding effectively on the flowers of certain species.
Getting down to eye-level or below can give you that something extra in a photograph, and fortunately on this afternoon the Tsalala pride were lying on the wall of one of the local waterholes, allowing us to park in the depression below.
A smaller cub from the other Tsalala pride, the Breakaways, sticks its tongue out. Again, we happened to be parked almost at eye level, as the pride were lying on a prominent bank in the Sand River, the reedbeds of which continue to be a favourite place for the Tailless lioness to stash her two cubs.
The twilight is my favourite time to use a spotlight, as the background sky will generally come out in this rich dark blue if you have your white balance right. The Nkoveni female at first light, watching some hyenas prowling around beneath the tree in which she had stashed her nyala kill.
A little later, she leaped up towards where the carcass was hanging, just out of picture to the top right.
Feeding safely in the upper branches, she nevertheless kept glancing around while the hyenas circled below. In a not-so-fortuitous turn of events, this kill was made far too close to the local hyena den site, attracting much unwanted attention, as a result, the leopard had left her cubs stashed a few kilometres away on the far side of her territory, even though they are big enough to be feeding on meat now
A young elephant playfully trumpets at a Burchell’s starling which was feeding on the road in front of it.
Unofficially the most photographed bird in Southern Africa; the lilac-breasted roller.