With only the lone Tsalala lioness moving around the northern parts of Londolozi, it was almost inevitable a pride would start moving in to take over, and it was most likely going to be between the Styx and Nkahuma prides.
I had heard that the Styx pride had been seen in the north a few days prior, but with heavy rains the Sand River had risen, and we were unable to cross. When the water level dropped a bit, we decided to see if we could track the pride down.
We found tracks quite soon, but it took us awhile to piece together exactly what had happened. Between Freddy Ngobeni, Jerry Hambana and Lucky Shabangu – three of Londolozi’s most experienced trackers – we had over half a century of tracking experience combined, so if the lions were there, we were pretty sure we were going to find them!
For about 45mins to an hour the three men worked together to solve the puzzle, and upon their instructions the three rangers (me, Alex Jordan and Paul Danckwerts) converged on the clearing the tracks were reportedly heading towards.
We were just too late, as there in front of us was a heaving mass of tawny, the horns of a wildbeest kill poking out, that was so fresh it was practically still kicking. The pride must have taken it down only 10 minutes or so before we got there!
We had an amazing sighting of the lions – who are lo0king very healthy – feeding for the next while.
In true form, Jerry Hambana was still very much on the alert through the sighting, and suddenly called our attention to a tiny, tiny shape he had spotted way off in the distance in the boughs of a marula tree, which after careful scrutiny through high-powered binoculars, turned out to be a leopard. It was right at the limit of what the human eye could see, and I am still utterly amazed at Jerry’s incredible eyesight. This was not the first time he had done this. Click on this link to watch a video of another superb spot by Jerry from a few years ago. We have yet to measure this one, but I’m guessing it would be somewhere in the region 0f 800m+.
The leopard out to be the young Thamba male, but unfortunately by the time we had arrived at the tree he had descended and was lying in some dense round-leafed teak thickets, so photos were pretty much impossible.
The Styx pride have been seen closer and closer to the Londolozi camps since this sighting, so if we’re lucky, we may have a new resident pride in the north. What this will mean for the Tsalala female, we’ll just have to wait and see…