We haven’t done a memory lane post for a couple of months; we’ve skipped ahead to January 2015.
November and December 2014 we’ll get to sometime in the next couple of weeks, but for now let’s go through a few names and faces from yesteryear, see which animals are still around and compare how the bush was looking back then compared to now…
The Mhangeni pride on the move. The young lions in the pride at this time would all go on to reach independence, with the six sub-adult lionesses forming the Ntsevu pride and the young males becoming nomadic and moving off into the Kruger Park. Of the four adult lionesses in the Mhangeni pride at this time, three remain.
One of the first things that struck me about these photos from January 2015 was the grass length. This was probably the last good growing season Londolozi had prior to the one we are currently in, and the reserve was looking incredibly lush. Poor rains and late rains over the next few years meant grazers – in particular the buffalo – have had a tough time until recently.
With the changing conditions came a change in some of the animal populations. There was a noticeable drop in Side-Striped Jackal numbers over the last few years, and sightings like the one of this pup became very infrequent. Thankfully their numbers seem to be recovering, and we have started to see adults and pups again.
The Tsalala pride used to be the terror of the local wildebeest population, moving in big loops across the marula crests where the funny looking antelope like to dwell. All through summer the pride Tailless female and her sister would bring down mothers and their calves. Since the pride has been reduced to just the single female and her cub, the wildebeest have been granted a stay of execution as she tends to focus more on impalas.
There seemed to be a number of big elephant bulls around the reserve five years ago, judging by the surplus of pics I found in my Lightroom catalogue…
One of the local wild dog packs regroups next to Ranger Simon Smit’s vehicle. We had waited with the dogs for at least an hour for them to get active on this warm afternoon, and within about 20 minutes of them getting moving they had brought down two impala lambs within a kilometre of camp.
The Nkoveni female’s attention is caught by something in the treetops. I can’t remember if she was still the Mashaba young female at this point, but I remember this sighting well, as I was trying out a 500mm lens for the first time.
Leopards have been recorded eating a wide variety of things, but this was the first I’ve heard of one eating a Buttonquail, a tiny species of bird that isn’t often seen as they spend most of their time in grass cover. The Nkoveni female had just descended the tree in the previous photo and had somehow managed to leap on the small bird, which is visible in her mouth. One or two crunches, and the Buttonquail had been swallowed.
Yellow-billed Kites are common summer visitors, with some flying down all the way from Europe and Asia, and others only coming from central Africa. I can’t remember what the temperature was like on this day, ie if the bird was trying to warm up or cool down… Since it’s bill is closed I imagine it was trying to warm up.
A young lioness from the Mhangeni pride (now an Ntsevu female). The succession amongst lions in the area is fantastic, with this female now being a mother in the largest pride in the reserve. Well, only one of the lionesses is yet to have cubs, so it’s an 83% chance this one currently has cubs…
Great success from this wild dog pack (as per normal). Their feeding method of grabbing and tearing means that kills are ripped apart quickly, and individual pack members will scatter, each with a morsel they will finish on their own.
The Sand River was clearly flowing strongly, as this photograph of a crocodile at the causeway demonstrates. These sinister reptiles often wait in the rapids, hoping for a fish to drift into their jaws.
Another bull elephant, flapping his ears to keep cool.
One of the last times I saw the Dudley Riverbank female. A direct descendant of the original Mother Leopard, she furthered the genetic line by raising the Ndzanzeni female, who is believed to be denning cubs somewhere in Londolozi’s deep south. Having only raised a male cub so far, the Ndzanzeni female will need to raise a female to keep the lineage intact…