As a child I remember looking at a photo of a hyena walking down a straight road, framed by trees with wonderful orange and red leaves.
I realise now that this must have been captured in Autumn, as the bush begins to prepare for shorter days, longer nights and cooler conditions. The colours across the landscape at present are incredible, with mixtures of greens, yellows and bright oranges acting as the most wonderful backdrop during game drive. It won’t be long now though before all the marula and bushwillow trees lose their leaves completely and the colours will be gone for another year…
In terms of wildlife, a single female wild dog has been seen on numerous occasions at various points on the reserve, possibly dispersing to form a new pack. It has been interesting watching her movements, as her need for social contact is evident in the way she has been seen interacting with a couple of wildebeest bulls. It’s almost as if she wants to play…
The Ntsevu lion pride and their cubs have been seen moving big distances, while in the north we have had influxes of different prides – namely a breakaway portion of the Nkuhuma pride as well as the Styx pride. We have all been learning more about leopard behaviour as a leap of three adult leopards was seen for several days in a row. It just shows us that there is always something to learn out here.
Sometimes though, its great to just sit back and enjoy This Week in Pictures…
An African Green Pigeon sits perched in the open just next to a waterhole. This was a rare moment as these beautiful pigeons are normally in the crowns of trees in search of fruit to eat. The name “pigeon” can seem very un-romanticised because of the typical association with the feral varieties found in cities, but one only has to catch a glimpse of the beautiful green species to have your mind changed.
An elephant calf bites its mother’s ear as the herd stands in the flowing stream of the Sand River. I only really noticed this after the moment had already passed. My interpretation would be that it was merely an inquisitive and affectionate “bite”. Elephants have incredibly strong bonds between members of their herd, particularly between mother and calf, and any kind of tactile communication will serve to enhance that.
A zebra stallion stands and scans his surroundings before continuing on towards an open clearing for the night. Zebra and other antelope such as impala and wildebeest often congregate in open clearings for safety during the hours of darkness. In this way, they can see and hear a bit better than if they were in a thicket, minimising the chances of them being ambushed.
A tawny eagle picks at its prey. What it was actually feeding on we are not sure. They have such a wide variety of prey, from small mammals and birds to reptiles and carrion, that it would be difficult to make even an assumption. Having no teeth to chew, the eagle is tearing off chunks small enough to swallow with its raptorial bill.
Dwarfed by large marula trees, a young impala ram lifts its head to check its surroundings. In the midst of the rut, impala are separated off into bachelor herds at present. The ram looking up in this image is too old to be part of a breeding herd, but still too young to be able to breed.
Ranger Shaun D’Araujo and his guests look on as an elephant bull feeds off the lush reeds along the banks of the Sand River. Elephants have been seen almost on a daily basis from late morning onwards congregating in the Sand River lately. As the landscape dries out, they are drawn more and more towards the perennial greenery along its banks.
An African Wild Dog pins its ears back and lowers its head as it walks towards another dog in its pack. This is a typical posture adopted by dogs prior to instigating the elaborate social greeting that the pack will undergo before getting active from a rest.
An elephant cow crosses through the Sand River at the back of her herd. We had arrived at a rocky crossing point as a large breeding herd was in the middle of the river drinking; lots of calves were playing in the water, splashing everywhere. I loved the soft light coming through the trees that caught this cow’s eye for a moment as she approached us.
Having just watched a pack of wild dogs finishing off an impala that they had caught, I looked back and noticed vultures descending as the sun was setting. I was amazed at how quickly they had spotted the kill and landed nearby. Vultures won’t fly at night, so these individuals were attempting to get a last bit of food in before darkness fell.
The Tortoise Pan male leopard (Previously Ndzanzeni Young Male) mates with the Mashaba female. This pair of young and old was seen on numerous occasions in company with the Inyathini male this week. The Mashaba female alternated mating with both males, within minutes of each other, but heavily favoured the younger Tortoise Pan male. This is almost an exact repeat of the father-son dynamic between the Camp Pan and Tu Tones males, when they were mating with the Tamboti female.
A kudu bull walks past a large marula tree. The light blue sky as a backdrop with a majestic antelope passing by an old tree struck me as a unique moment. How many other kudu and other animals have passed under this marula tree? I know I have personally seen the Mashaba female with a hoisted impala kill in the fork of this exact one, but over the years many other leopards might have rested in its boughs.
The Ntsevu pride line up to drink side by side. We arrived as they were approaching the waterhole. It was amazing to see how they all slotted right next to each other, even though there was plenty of space for each individual to spread out.
A young vervet monkey is illuminated by the afternoon sun. Monkeys are common around the Londolozi camps. This troop was foraging just outside the entrance in a thicket along the banks of a small gully.
A lioness from the Ntsevu pride looks ahead as two cubs rub against each other below her. This was taken just after the pride had drunk in a line next to each other. It was still relatively early in the morning and – judging by the tracks we had found all over the place – the cubs were probably ready to start resting for the day as they had walked a long distance.
It’s really very difficult to say what the odds are. As dogs cover such substantial amounts of ground (dispersers could cover ~200km), one would hope that with their incredible sense of smell, they would meet up with other dispersers or in some cases – already established packs. If the latter is the case, that dog would have to work its way up the social ranks from the bottom.