Comedy and drama often go hand-in-hand in nature, as was the case with the hyena footage published yesterday on our blog. Despite the rarity of the sighting and the implications contained therein, the bottom line is that it was rather comical! And that’s great, as I feel that a lot of the time we can immerse ourselves too heavily in the lives of the animals here. Yes, it is important to feel a sense of connection, whether from a Land Rover, viewing something live and in the flesh, or from 10 000 kilometres away and having a single image resonate with you from your computer screen, but we need to remember that what happens out here is out of our control; the animals live their lives just as they would if no one was watching. It is certainly tough not to be impacted by a death or injury to a favourite leopard or a young animal, but so long as we can take a time-out every now and again, not go too deep down the rabbit-hole, and laugh at a couple of hyenas going at it in an open clearing, I think we’re on the right track.
Despite a couple of cub losses earlier in the year, the female leopards that are still raising offspring all seem to be on the verge of success, with no cubs having been lost since those of the Nkoveni female. The male leopard population seems to have stabilised, and we are starting to hope that there may soon be a number of sub-adult leopards roaming the reserve, independent of their mothers. The Nanga young female seems to be fully independent now, the Ndzanzeni young male is nearly there, and the Tatowa and Tamboti cubs, all of similar age (about 9 months) seem to be thriving under the umbrella protection of the Inyathini male.
The lions – particularly the Tsalala pride – continue to be as confusing as ever, so I’m not even going to touch on them here.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Tamboti female has been one of Londolozi’s more frequently viewed individuals of late. Still raising a single female cub, she has been moving around her territory quite extensively. Recent rainfall has forced her to maintain her territorial boundaries more actively as her scent will get washed away, and the impala lamb kills she has been making don’t last very long, forcing her to keep moving in order to find her next meal. f4.0, 1/2000s, ISO 500
The Tamboti female inhabited the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.
Occasionally she will make a larger kill though, which will anchor her in one place for 24 hours or more, affording her the opportunity to bring her cub to the kill, and if we’re lucky, providing us with some great photographic opportunities. This is her cub, resting on a limb of a fallen knobthorn tree, staying out of reach of the three hyenas that were prowling below. The cub is fully weaned now, no longer drinking her mother’s milk, and therefore fully dependant on the meat her mother provides. f2.8, 1/500s, ISO 1000
Rangers Greg Pingo (left) and Garrett Fitzpatrick return from a brief branch-cutting expedition in the Leadwood Forest of northern Londolozi. f2.8, 1/5000s, ISO 1000
The beauty of a long lens (a 600mm in this instance) is the shallow depth of field one achieves. Having everything out of focus apart from the subject draws your eye immediately to it, as there is essentially nothing else to really look at in the photo. This spotted hyena was walking away from where she had been finishing the remains of a warthog kill dropped by a leopard (see two photos below). f4.5, 1/800s, ISO 1000
An African fish eagle comes in to land. The local pair that nest above the Sand River near the Londolozi camps have been spending an inordinate amount of time hunting in the big waterhole next to Pioneer Camp. The juvenile they have been raising has been joining them on occasion, and despite his regular plaintive cries for food has been forced to start hunting for himself. f4, 1/500s, ISO 500
The Anderson male pauses in his descent from a Marula tree. He had been feeding on a warthog (that we believe he robbed from the Ingrid Dam female, who was nearby with her cub) and dropped the remains, which the standing hyena was feeding on. A second hyena can just be seen further back on the left, and another two were lying a few meters out of the picture. f4,5, 1/250s, ISO 1000. Composite of 8 images.
Unofficially the biggest leopard in the Sabi Sands, the Anderson male is an absolutely enormous individual in north western Londolozi.
An Eastern Tiger snake looks down to where it had just disgorged a tree agama that it had caught but was much too large to swallow. These beautiful snakes are seldom seen, being mainly nocturnal, and spending much of their time hiding in cracks in rocks and under the bark of trees. f10, 1/160s, ISO 160
A brown snake eagle launches into flight from the top of a Marula tree, in front of a nearly-full moon. These eagles lend themselves well to photography, as they almost always perch right at the tops of trees. f5.6, 1/1250, ISO 1600
An impala ram stands guard over an open crest as another night descends. These adaptable antelope tend to move out into the open as darkness falls, as visibility is better and they have room to move should danger approach. f4.5, 1/5000, ISO 1000
A Cape vulture (foreground), distinctive with its blue head, larger size and pale eye, stands off from the hippo carcass that was the centre of attention this week. These vultures are the rarest in the region, only occasionally drifting in from more mountainous areas that contain their favoured cliff-side breeding sites. f2.8, 1/2000s, ISO 1600
A combination of these red-billed oxpeckers and a well-muddied hide would have aided tremendously in this white rhino bull’s parasite removal. The mud in particular acts as an all-over coating, protecting the rhino from biting insects and ticks, as well as helping with temperature regulation. f6.3, 1/200s, ISO 1000
A herd of elephants crosses the Sand River towards ranger Mrisho Lugenge’s vehicle. Having many full pans around the reserve means that the river is no longer as centralised a drinking spot for the herds as it once was, so a sighting like this is particularly special. Photograph by Rob Jeffery. f6.3, 1/50, ISO 800
The same sighting from a different perspective. This photo was taken from Mrisho’s vehicle, and shows Rob Jeffery – who took the previous photo – getting into position with his guests in the background. Photograph by Chris Kane-Berman. f4.5, 1/320s, ISO 11400
Another of summer’s casualties. This incident occurred during the midday heat, while we were out photographing the tiger snake featured above. Panicked squealing suddenly erupted from a thicket about 100m away, and four terrified warthog piglets rushed across the road in a cloud of dust. The frantic grunting and snorting of two adult females drew us into a dense stand of Tamboti trees, and there we found the Nkoveni female up a Tamboti tree with the fifth piglet clamped firmly in her jaws. f9, 1/160, ISO 320. Flash used
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.
Photographic conditions didn’t lend themselves to anything particularly striking, especially in the midday light, but we still managed to capture this picture of the leopard in the tree with the piglet and the mother warthog below. f5, 1/1000, ISO 800
The seldom-seen Tatowa female is still successfully raising her two cubs in Londolozi’s southern reaches. On this occasion, she had been feeding on a duiker kill, but the carcass wasn’t large enough to warrant her fetching her cubs to the meat from wherever she had stashed them. After finishing the kill, she stopped for a brief drink at a nearby pan and disappeared into the night. f2.8, 1/60s, ISO 6400
The Tatowa female was one of a litter of three females born in early 2012 to the Ximpalapala female of the north.