Animals are unpredictable. That goes without saying. But behavioural patterns are predictable in many ways, because they are just that: patterns. They reoccur because the animals in question are responding to repeating stimuli or circumstances. Sometimes it’s as simple as a lion yawning a few times which means its likely to get up, whereas it can be on a larger scale and deal with population reactions to changing environmental conditions.
I’m bringing this up because Ranger Fin Lawlor reminded me of a discussion we had a month or two ago, in which we predicted that we were probably going to lose some leopard cubs soon. As morbid as a discussion of that sort sounds, the reality is that we had/have too many encroaching and/or vagrant males moving around for nothing to happen.
The Hukumuri male has been pushing in from the north, the Tatowa young male was viewed a number of times in the heart of the Ximungwe female’s territory, and the newly-named Tortoise Pan male has been venturing further and further afield.
This is the kind of situation in which on an emotional level all we can do is grit our teeth and hope for the best, whilst at the same time realising that from an objective and ecological point of view, turnover and genetic movements are ultimately healthy for a wild population of leopards, which is what any true conservationist should wish for.
As far as predictability for the rest of Londolozi’s wildlife goes, it’s been a predictably spectacular seven days, as usual.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A yellow-billed stork stalks the shallows of the Sand River, while a small crocodile watches malevolently nearby. A friend of mine recently raised the question of why waterbirds don’t get taken more regularly by crocs, and I didn’t have an accurate answer. As he suggested, it may well be that they simply don’t get enough bang for their buck; waterbirds are far more feathers than meat. Or maybe the birds are too wily. They DO get taken from time to time though, or at least eaten; just click here to see Bruce Arnott’s spectacular photos of a crocodile eating an Egyptian Goose carcass.
Sticking with the water theme, the chilly winter temperatures often force the hippos out onto the banks, where the winter sun isn’t strong enough to burn them. Terrapins – that rely on the ambient temperature to maintain their body temperature – also find it prudent to sunbathe as much as possible. Neither seemed to mind the other’s presence.
I didn’t have a wide enough lens to fit in these two white-backed vultures, but one can still get a good sense of the intimidation tactics that they employ to exert dominance over one another at a carcass; wings spread, lot’s of hissing and extended necks to appear as large as possible.
The Mashaba female, Londolozi’s oldest territorial leopardess. She had killed and hoisted an adult impala ram, one of the poor individuals that is (was!) still rutting away. As winter sets in and the rut ends, the leopards won’t have such easy pickings anymore amongst the male impala population.
We often talk about zooming out to get a better perspective. This photo portrays the situation far more accurately than the previous one, in that it gives you a sense of place. This marula was surrounded by thick bushwillows, so zooming out TOO much would have cluttered the shot.
I like the sense of anonymity in a silhouette shot. This could be anyone. It could be YOU. Two people enjoy the sunset from atop one of the Marthly Pools Koppies.
Three photos that describe the “And go!” of a wild dog hunt. This male impala had spotted the solitary female wild dog in the thickets, but hadn’t quite identified what she was yet, or whether or not she was a threat.
Then the female broke into a run. This single dog has covered an amazing amount of ground over the last few weeks; she regularly runs close to 10 kilometres in the course of a sighting. She started running after the male impala from the previous photo but broke off the chase quite quickly.
This isn’t the greatest shot, but shows the first half of the rocking-horse-like gait known as “stotting” that impala employ when pursued by wild dogs. It is theorised to be an advertisement of fitness, saying “Look how fast I am, chase my friend rather!”
Yellow-billed hornbills are easily sexed by their beaks. The male has a much more robust bill, with the casque on the upper mandible extending almost to the bill tip. The female on the other hand (pictured), has a much more slender bill.
This is a common view during a wild dog hunt; dust as a vehicle tries to keep up with the pack. In this case it was the single female again, with Ranger Alex Jordan trying to keep her in sight as she chased yet another impala herd.
Skittish when coming down to drink, zebras will often take a long time before finally putting their heads down. This one had a number of false starts before it eventually decided that the coast was clear.
I remember TWIP founder Talley Smith posting a photo of a Brown-headed Parrot in one of her early posts, but I think this was the first picture I’ve ever actually captured of these speedy little birds. They are really beautiful when seen up close, but are usually racing past like miniature fighter ‘planes, so it’s hard to get a shot of them. When they do land they are generally shy, and it’s hard getting close enough for a photo. Luckily I had a long lens with me for this shot.
Cute calf. No caption necessary.
Three white-backed vultures in silhouette. But is it sunrise or sunset? Guesses below please…