We’re going to start posting a few more of these memory lane-style galleries, as for those of you who’ve followed the Londolozi Blog for a while, it’s great to reminisce about the old days, see some familiar faces from way-back-when, and to ultimately appreciate just how much change can occur in a population of wild animals in half a decade.
Whilst ecological time scales tend to be much longer than ours, the lives of the individuals within them aren’t (with the odd exception), so turnover is the order of the day, especially in the big cat populations that we follow so closely.
I must admit I got a bit of a shock when going through some June 2014 images today; I usually remember sightings very clearly, yet there were photos I came across that I simply had no recollection of; where they were taken or what was happening at the time. Maybe senility is creeping up on me, or maybe the sightings fell short of spectacular, but either way it still made me appreciate just how much one can see over a 5-year period.
Wild dogs run hot and cold at Londolozi; well, they don’t but the sightings do. Packs have extensive home ranges, and it can be weeks between sightings. It seems to me though that over the last few years we have enjoyed far more regular viewing of these enigmatic carnivores. Maybe it’s something to do with the rising impala population, or maybe I’m just imagining it…
I rather enjoyed the fact that this diminutive rhino calf and wildebeest bull simply stood ignoring each other for a minute. The disinterest shown between different herbivore species can be almost comical at times.
I remember this sighting clearly; the Majingilane lion (or at least the Hip Scar male) were with the Mhangeni pride way out in our western areas, and it was a freezing drive to get to where they were moving in the early morning. This was the first batch of Mhangeni cubs, the 9 who made it to independence. This particular cub is a young male, but his 6 sisters and female cousins who were there at the time grew up to form the adults in the Ntsevu pride.
And the adults from the Mhangeni lion pride go on the prowl. I think they ran in on some impala during the course of the morning, and we were hoping they’d get lucky in and amongst the thick bushwillows that dominated the area, but they didn’t.
Perspective. Normally I’d prefer not to have someone’s elbow in the way (in this case tracker Mike Sithole), but I rather enjoy how it gives the impression of a stare-down with this timid elephant calf, its ears splayed out to try and intimidate us.
More perspective, thankfully not involving any people this time, as adult buffalo bulls are in no way as comical as young elephants. These two walked past each other without really batting an eyelid, but this one brief moment in which they looked at each other is highly suggestive of the further bull claiming the waterhole strictly for his own.
All four Majingilane, the Hip-Scar male bringing up the rear, as usual.
Tracker Milton Khoza shares a laugh with ranger Dan Buys. I think this was during the wild dog sighting from the first photo, and the pack had just killed an impala. Dan an Milton were discussing camera settings.
It’s not often you’ll find a rhino as completely covered in mud at this one. In fact so exuberant was he when wallowing that he seemed almost angry at the mud, and wanted to get it all out of the pan, as evidenced by this splashing foot stomp.
The Sparta lion pride are gone now, way down to the south of the reserve. The name “Sparta Pride” seems to be just a fragrant leaf to press into the book of memory, but who knows, maybe one day they’ll be back. Apparently the older lioness has birthed two separate litters through the Avoca males, both of which she’s sadly lost, but with the Tsalala female still raising hers by herself, maybe there’s hope for the Sparta Pride yet…
The same sighting as the photo above; the sub-adults from the pride sharpen claws and stretch tendons on a Leadwood tree before following their mother into the evening.
This is one of those sightings I don’t actually remember. I know it’s the Mashaba female leopard in the picture, but I can’t remember where this was or what she was doing. I suspect it was a road to the west of camp that she was crossing, but there are a number of similar sequences of her taken over the course of the month and they are all a bit confused in my memory. From other shots it appears she was calling a lot during this period, so she may well have been looking to mate, although it wasn’t until a year or so later that she again found reproductive success when the Ximungwe female was born.
Elephant skin photos often lack context; I know, mine usually do. Which is why I enjoyed this simple inclusion of a strand of Red Grass. I probably should have cropped out the distracting extra strand just below it, but this is how you learn…
Sand flies as two Tsalala lion cubs tackle each other in the Manyelethi riverbed. We often talk about getting as low as possible to photograph wildlife – eye-level material is just that much more powerful – and thankfully on this bitterly cold morning, ranger Simon Smit and I were able to park below this prominent sandbank in the riverbed while the cubs scampered round above us.
The Dark-maned Majingilane was in the same sighting as the photo above, but kept well out of the cubs’ shenanigans, preferring to isolate himself further up-river.