We continue with our 5-years-ago-this-month series, although I have to admit, I sometimes struggle to remember what exactly was happening in a sighting from the archives.
I usually pride myself on knowing exactly when and where a photo was taken, but unless there was specific action happening, or the terrain was easily identifiable, this month stumped me a couple of times.
Anyway, let’s see what was around in February of 2015 (I still can’t believe that was 5 years ago!)…
I had to include this one. At our annual Christmas Party, the lodge closes for a day and the curtain-raiser for the evening is an exhibition soccer match between the Londolozi Leopards (our official team, comprised mainly of butlers and trackers and all the guys who actually know how to play the game), and the invitational Hyenas Team (mainly rangers and a couple of trackers and everyone else who lacks foot-eye coordination and would be better served sticking to Tiddly-Winks). I think the Hyenas got thrashed this year, but no one remembers the score. What they DO remember is Garrett Fitzpatrick’s ridiculous header goal from a corner kick that at least got the Hyenas on the scoreboard. It may have been the only goal the Hyenas scored, but it certainly earned Garrett some beers. Here he runs in to celebrate with teammate Kev Power.
Despite their size, elephants can easily be put out by things that wouldn’t normally harm them. They still recognise a threat when they see one though, as this cow did with the crocodile basking on the edge of a waterhole in front of her.
Crocodiles on land aren’t generally a threat to anything (don’t put this theory to the test), as evidenced by the sounder of warthogs that sauntered past this one (this photo was taken a few minutes after the one above). Crocodiles rely so heavily on the element of surprise to catch their prey that they will hardly ever attempt to catch anything from dry land.
This tree sadly fell over a couple of years ago, so can no longer hold a leopard in its boughs, as it did with the Nanga female, pictured here. If you look carefully, you can just see the remains of her impala kill hanging in the branches above her.
One of the many crocodiles that fish along the Causeway. This photo was taken on the return drive to camp from the Nanga female sighting in the photo above. Since crocodiles can live for a long time, I wonder if this individual is still around, fishing in the same place…
The local hyena clans shift their dens over the years, and the one this particular hyena was using hasn’t been active for about three years now. They will shift den-sites largely based on parasite build-up.
No matter where the dens are situated, there’s almost always a number of young cubs whose inquisitive nature means at least an hour sitting watching at a den is time well spent.
I included this one of baboons because of the change in status these primates have enjoyed around the Londolozi camps. Previously they were a menace; raiding buffets and breaking into rooms to get at the snacks. We actually had an official position of “Baboon Chaser” on our staff, whose job it was to rush between camps on his bicycle, chasing them off. The simple decision to hide where the snacks were kept in the rooms or remove them completely, literally solved the baboon problem overnight.
This was the Sparta pride, clearly interested in hunting something. The others were out of picture to the right. This is a photo in which I don’t remember the sighting specifically, but judging by the lack of cover , there was little chance they would meet with anyone hunting success, which is proven by the lack of any subsequent shots of the sighting.
Leopard tortoises can be found rushing to puddles to drink if there have been a few weeks since the last rains. As 2015 was the first year of poor rains that preceded the bad drought of 2016, I imagine this individual hadn’t had a good drink in a while, despite February usually being one of our wettest months.
Large raptors can live for a long time, and Verraux’s Eagle Owls can live for over thirty years in captivity. Much like the crocodile a few photos previously, I wonder if this pair is still around (I think this was taken in the northern reaches of Londolozi along the Manyelethi River).
The Nanga female again, bathed in golden light, also in the Manyelethi River. She is definitely still around. There seemed to be a disproportionately high number of photos of her this month in 2015, which I found curious until I remembered she was raising cubs at the time, so was a highly sought after individual.
Try and guess who these males are…
This was a pair of the then-very-young Birmingham coalition, poking their noses onto Londolozi and tracked down by Rob Hlatswayo. They were seemingly in an exploratory phase at this time, and we regularly found tracks of them being chased back north by the Majingilane. Eventually the younger Birmingham coalition got the message and stayed north, biding their time it seems, as although they are now down to two (there were five of them when this picture was taken), they are dominant over prime lion habitat along the Sand River on Londolozi.