I finally got a glimpse of the Ottawa male lion, as he was found next to the Sand River, barely 200 metres from where one of the Birmingham males had been seen the night before. This lone male was tentatively following two of the Mhangeni females, who were keeping a watchful eye on a herd of impalas grazing in and amongst the Phragmites thickets.
Being a solitary male lion, flanked west and east by coalitions of older, larger males (Birmingham and Matimba), means that the odds are certainly not in his favour, but stranger things have happened. The lion activity has certainly been keeping us enthralled, with individuals from four different prides and coalitions passing the camp within the last 24hrs. The Flat Rock male leopard also put in an appearance amongst it all, but didn’t seem too put out by the roars emanating from the riverbed both upstream and downstream from him.
Lions are of course the hot topic, especially with the leopard population relatively stable at the moment, so anticipate more than the usual number of lion posts popping up as we head towards the Christmas season.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
This Birmingham male had been mating with the Tsalala female close to the Londolozi camps. When male lions want to assess the reproductive status of a lioness, they analyze pheromones in her urine by use of their vomeronasal or Jacobson’s organ. Immediately after testing the scent of the Tsalala female, the Birmingham male began walking away, heading back towards the rest of his coalition. This most likely indicated that the female was not – or was simply no longer – in oestrus.
A vervet monkey female appears rather exposed in the middle of a clearing. The short grass of the area meant it would have been very difficult for any would-be predators to make an approach, so the troop was pretty safe. Sunset was approaching, and a few minutes after this photo was taken, the female and her troop were up in the trees for the night.
Yellow-billed hornbills are common birds at Londolozi. This family is the African equivalent of the Toucans of Central and South America. Their similar-looking bills are an example of convergent evolution; this is when different species evolve independently of each other to fill similar niches. Interestingly enough, both Toucans and hornbills use their bills as thermoregulatory mechanisms, although this behaviour is far more prevalent in the South American birds.
The Ottawa male lion mentioned in the intro text. He has been seen more and more to the north of the Sand River, trailing the Mhangeni females. They seem fairly tolerant of him, but we have only seen them together when the lionesses aren’t anywhere near their cubs. What will happen should this male encounter one of the litters may well be a different story, but maybe the lionesses have mated with him, in which case he could be placated into accepting the litters.
A young elephant bull makes use of one of the last mud wallows available to him. With the Sand River no longer flowing in front of camp, only a few spots around the reserve offer cooling water and mud for the large pachyderms of Londolozi, but if the season is kind, it will hopefully be no more than a few weeks before the first proper rains hit and the pans and rivers start filling up again.
One of the cubs of the Nhlanguleni female. The mother is leaving these two cubs for longer and longer periods now, but their rapidly developing climbing ability means that it is quite safe for her to do so, as they can easily seek refuge in the treetops. Naturally independent creatures, the cubs are regularly being found lying up in trees close to one another. Find one, and you’ll invariably find the second cub in a leafy green tree within a hundred metres or so.
Now is the time when the spotted hyenas start paying more and more attention to the impala herds. With almost all of the adult ewes heavily pregnant, the hyenas know that the birthing season is imminent, so will regularly scan the clearing edges for any sign of a female that has just given birth. Our first lamb is usually recorded in early November, so we are literally only weeks away…
Crocodiles possess on average around 66 teeth in their jaws, although it can appear at first glance as though they have more. Teeth are shed throughout their lives, but as long as they maintain a diet with enough calcium and protein, they are able to replace them. As one can imagine after seeing the dentistry of this individual, their teeth are designed purely for gripping and not for slicing.
A group of yearling impala rams all wait for one of the others to enter a thicket first. These young males had been drinking at a waterhole out of frame to the left of the picture, but were very aware of the potential danger that might be lurking in the thicker vegetation. One can tell by all their ears pointing forward just how attentive they are, and how aware they are of where the danger is most likely to be.
Beauty can be found in the simplest of things, like the texture of a Leadwood tree’s bark.
A recent camera trap survey (of which we will be sharing more in the forthcoming weeks) revealed much about the resident leopard population. By far the most prevalent individual caught on the camera traps was the Inyathini male, whose territory covers a significant portion of Londolozi south of the Sand River. His distinctive box-shaped head and short tail were unmistakeable, and seldom needed the pattern-recognition software to identify him. Here he feeds on the remains of an impala kill in the fork of a weeping boer-bean tree.
A spotted hyena strolls past ranger Shaun D’Araujo’s vehicle with a small piece of an elephant carcass clamped firmly in its jaws. Any guesses as to what it is that the hyena is carrying?
The Nhlanguleni female with both of her cubs. Or more accurately captioned: one of the Nhlanguleni female’s cubs with its sibling and mother. The adult female had killed a bushbuck in the Sand River and we had followed her for well over a kilometre to where she had stashed her offspring in a steep drainage line. Immediately upon calling them out of hiding she began leading them back to the kill, where they fed for the next two days.
A yellow-billed stork comes in to land. With the Sand River virtually dry, a lot of its fish population has been confined to the few remaining pools, and a multitude of storks and herons have been congregating around the fringes of said pools to enjoy the bounty.
Apparently having pressing business elsewhere, this yellow-billed stork luckily flew straight towards the camera, although I blew the shot by cutting off the wingtips. One of the drawbacks to shooting with a prime lens is that you can’t zoom in or out, so if the subject is too close, YOU have to move. With a bird flying rapidly towards you however, that’s just not possible.
The wild dog viewing has been fantastic over the last week. In this particular sighting the pack had devoured an impala, and the adults were scattered around keeping watch while the pups finished up the scraps.
Four of the Ntsevu pride brought down a big Nyala bull along the Tugwaan riverbed, which was discovered by tracker Equalizer Ndlovu and ranger Greg Pingo. The lionesses had brought the pride’s two older litters with them (6 cubs of about 3 months old) to share in the feast. Young cubs like this one, although not as accomplished as their spotted counterparts, will often try and climb small trees, as the dreamy look in the cub’s eye suggests, but it gave up the idea.
If a lion cub could be called grumpy, this photograph would show it. The would-be tree climber from the previous photo had just woken its sibling up, and if looks could kill…