After managing to elude us for a while, the Nkoveni Female is back and has provided us with some exceptional sightings of late. Having successfully raised her two female cubs to a year now we have been incredibly lucky to have numerous spectacular sightings of the three of them over the last year. On a recent morning drive, a few of the team and their guests took no notice of the constant drizzle while they were overjoyed watching the trio playing together on a fallen over Marula Tree.
A gorgeous female who is found to the east of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
As it goes, I wasn’t a part of that sighting that morning but a few mornings later myself, tracker Bennett Mathonsi and our guests were taken by surprise when a tower of giraffe lead us to yet another memorable morning with the Nkoveni Female. This time, however, she wasn’t with her two younger daughters but instead reunited with her eldest daughter – the Plaque Rock Female. I use the word reunited loosely as this was not quite the friendly encounter you would imagine but rather a reminder of where the territorial boundary between mother and daughter lies.
A pretty young playful female found along the river to the east of camp
The low rumble of their growling continued in between scraping of their hind paws through the grass to re-establish who is dominant in this particular area. Thinking the daughter would surely be submissive to her mother, the Plaque Rock Female suddenly bounded out of the long grass towards her mother and they both chased after each other across the crest ahead. Myself and rangers Kirst Joscelyne and Jess Shillaw eagerly followed to see what would happen next. Would they battle it out? Who would come out on top? At this stage the adrenaline was peaking and in-between the awes of silence from my guests the questions started flying. The most pressing question being why a mother and daughter would be fighting over territory?
As we continued to observe the behaviour of mother and daughter the answers became clearer. They did not engage in a full-blown fight but rather settled 10 meters apart from each other and eventually, they parted ways amicably. It was evident that once the Nkoveni Female was certain she was sniffing the scent of her first successfully raised cub, she then tolerated her presence and backed away. Still intrigued by what might happen next, we decided to stick with the Nkoveni Female. Which gave us a good insight into what had led to the mother-daughter encounter. For the next hour, the Nkoveni Female began to retrace the steps of her daughter.
The Nkoveni Female sniffed through the long grass and re-scent marked over her daughter’s markings. Not only enthralled by our current sighting, but we also found ourselves reliving another sighting we had only heard about from the previous day. The Nkoveni Female lead us to the exact spot where the Plaque Rock Female had been sharing an impala kill with the Maxim’s Male less than 24 hours before. This gave us another clue into why the territorial spat had started in the first place.
Fairly skittish male that is presumed to have come from the Kruger National Park.
Currently raising her two most recent daughters, the Nkoveni Female has to keep a watchful eye over who is moving through her territory. Although it is possible that the Maxim’s Male is the father of the two younger cubs, he still poses a potential threat to their livelihood. He may very well also be causing the Plaque Rock Female to encroach on her mother’s territory as he will look to both mother and daughter for mating opportunities.
The next point to consider is that the Nkoveni Female would have originally ceded some of her territory to her eldest daughter, which as discussed before eventually comes down to furthering the genetic lines. However, we now have to speculate whether or not she will push the Plaque Rock Female further to accommodate her two younger daughters as they move towards independence. We also have to ask how the Plaque Rock Female will react to the growing presence of her younger sisters? We have seen two sisters from the same litter battle it out for territory before, but this time there will be three sisters from two different litters.
Who will be ceding territory to who and who will look to venture into unknown and unclaimed territories? One question always leads to another and only time will tell. So be sure to keep a lookout for a follow-up blog in the next couple of months…