The Mhangeni pride split from the Tsalalas, then the Ntsevu pride split from the Mhangeni females. With another group of Mhangeni sub-adults (from 2016) currently roaming the property, it’s inevitable that they too will be renamed, as there’s practically zero chance of them rejoining their natal pride.
Unfortunately for them, they won’t have the luxury of numbers to see them on the road to territorial status, as there are only two females in the group (the third is with the Mhangeni lionesses), which, when the males have moved off – which they ultimately will be forced to do – will mean they only just qualify for the use of the title “pride”. I understand that that sentence might have been quite tricky to digest, but such are the lion dynamics in a place like this.
The beauty of all of this is that every lioness we are currently viewing on Londolozi is a direct descendant of the original Tailless Tsalala female from 1998. One only has to think of that to have a quiet smile creep across one’s face. That doesn’t really have too much to do with todays TWIP, but with lions being the current talking point amongst the Ranging and Tracking Team, it’s been on my mind.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
It doesn’t always go your way. This lioness was the last of four to cross the river on this particular morning, and this little slip of hers on an algae-covered rock would have been a nice moment to capture, but the Phragmites reeds were blocking our view, so the photograph ended up somewhat blighted. There’s only so much you can do in terms of predicting and positioning; if the wildlife decides to do something different, better luck next time.
This waterbuck bull had some of the most impressive horns I’ve ever seen on the species. The emblem of the Sabi Sand Reserve in which Londolozi lies is a waterbuck, and it was great to see that the genes for these creatures are as strong as ever.
The bright red beak of this male ostrich means he is in full mating display. Males develop bright pink skin on their shins as well (not visible in this photo), so with the amorous activity over the last month or so, we’re hoping for a repeat of the chick saga of 2016…
The most fearsome looking gesture by a lion is usually one of its most passive; the yawn. I suppose it does indicate that the lion is likely to get moving, which might mean that something is about to get hunted and meet its maker, so very indirectly it could be interpreted as an aggressive gesture, but you really have to work hard to make that link!
The Verraux’s or Giant Eagle Owl is Africa’s largest. A number of pairs of these magnificent birds inhabit Londolozi, and a drive along any of the prominent drainage lines, scrutinising the canopies of the largest trees, will usually result in a sighting. They pair for life, so where you find one you will invariably find another close by.
The young Tsalala lioness continues to traverse her lonely way across the north of the property. On this particular morning she missed some impala in a botched hunting attempt, and then we lost her as she moved into the Sand River, heading towards the distant whoop of hyenas that sounded like they were squabbling over the remains of a kill. The day before this she was looking very skinny, but 24 hours later was in much better condition; she must have caught something and fed well during the night.
A Burchell’s Coucal; more often heard than seen. This one was fluffed up to try and trap some heat below its feathers; the morning was very cold, and the bird had left the dense river thickets – where its species spends most of their time – in order to try and take advantage of whatever meagre warmth the rising sun could offer.
A young vervet monkey looks towards where the rest of its troop was playing. Although these little creatures get up to all sorts of mischief around camp, and are often a nuisance, their presence is in fact a welcome one as they are quick to spot and alarm at any leopards that may be moving past in the Sand River.
With winter holding the greater Kruger Park firmly in its grip, elephants have shifted their diet away from the grass they prefer in summer when it is green and lush, towards more nutritional food sources, like the buffalo-thorn, pictured here. This tree species has viciously hooked thorns that would be quick to lacerate a human hand that strayed amongst the branches, but the elephants seem to be impervious to the sharp points, munching the branches – thorns and all – in order to take advantage of the nutritious leaves.
Although common across most of South Africa and therefore often overlooked, Egyptian Geese are nevertheless rather striking birds. Living in male-female pairs, their hissing and honking (the male hisses, the female honks) is a constant background noise near many of Londolozi’s prominent waterholes.
With the camp aloes in full bloom in winter, competition has heated up amongst the local sunbird population. The Scarlet-Chested sunbirds are the biggest, and are spending a lot of time aggressively defending the aloe gardens against the smaller species – of which this female Collared Sunbird is one – twittering and bullying them out in an attempt to hog all the nectar for themselves.
Monkeys alarming one afternoon brought us into the area. We spied a Tawny Eagle on a nearby marula, but thought it strange that the monkeys would be alarming at it – personally I’ve only seen vervet monkeys alarm-calling at the much bigger Martial Eagle – so carried on searching. Eventually we found the Flat Rock male at the base of another marula tree, a dead monkey on the ground next to him. Despite constant sentries up in the high branches, occasionally a lapse in vigilance will let a mokey troop down, which can be fatal for one of them…
A dominant male leopard over the majority of the north. He originally took over the 4:4 Male's territory when he died.
The Flat Rock male has been featuring regularly in the week’s leopard sightings, having made the monkey kill above, a bushbuck kill on the Sand River’s northern bank, and then being found patrolling far to the west where he was vocalising constantly (this sighting), most likely responding to the calls of what could have only been the Anderson male on the far side of the river. Sandros Sihlangu and guests look on.
A foolhardy Natal Spurfowl ventures a little too close for comfort to the Hosana male who was resting in the sands of the Manyelethi River. The spurfowl would cluck, the leopard would snarl, the spurfowl would cluck, the leopard would snarl, and so it would go for about 15 minutes, until eventually the bird decided there was nothing further to be accomplished and scurried away.
The Hosana Male arrived in mid-2018 and is now dominant over Othawa, rarely seen on Londolozi's western boundary.
Two buffalo bulls bring up the rear of a large herd that was making its way through the grasslands. The big males are generally to be found on the flanks of the herds, as they provide most of the firepower when the group needs to defend itself against lion attack.
A very sleepy Barn Owl rests out the day in the rafters high above Varty Camp deck. This individual and its partner have been shrieking their way through the hours of darkness for the past month or two, their eerie and very loud calls costing many of us a good night’s rest, so I have to admit I was sorely tempted to wake this one up as an act of revenge (only kidding).
In the same sighting as the first picture of this post, thankfully the rest of the pride crossed where we had a great view, so we were pretty happy with the 3-out-of-4 result.