In this week’s TWIP, and in the process of going through my latest camera roll, I found myself marvelling at the process of animal habituation and deep gratitude for the sightings and animals we get to witness at Londolozi every single day. I’ll dive deeper into these thoughts in a separate blog next week, so stay tuned!
But what I will iterate is that the term “habituation” refers to the process of gradually acclimating wild animals to the presence of humans and minimizing their fear response. This process is particularly important for elusive and potentially dangerous species.
And all things considered, as it appears to be each and every week at Londolozi, we’ve had a predator-dense week that has blown my mind. Over and above the predators, there’s been an abundance and diversity in general game and birdlife. From the Three River Young Male and Ntomi Male continuing to remind us that they are no longer cute cubs dependent on their mothers, to the reputable Ximungwe Female and Three Rivers Female, leopards have been seen in abundance.
On the lion front, the Ndzhenga Males have been seen reinstating their territory across Londolozi in response to distant neighbouring lions’ bellowing roars. The Ntsevu Breakaway have also been successful (and will reiterate the emphasis on the word success) trailing a large herd of buffalo. In addition, in the past few months, we continue to be blessed with a myriad of cheetah and wild dog sightings, including a particular cheetah sighting I will remember for years to come. I’ll leave the rest of the story to the images below.
Let me know your favourites in the comments section below.
Enjoy This Week In Pictures…
After spotting the Three Rivers Young Male hiding in a spike thorn thicket, we decided to wait it out and after giving him a little bit of time and space, he rewarded us with approaching a nearby wallow to drink. Since leaving his mother, he has become rather skittish around the vehicles, but this sighting reminded me that the process of habituation takes time and patience, and a whole lot of reverence for these incredible cats.
One of two cubs to survive, the sister lost at five months. Still dependent on his mother, but is growing into an impressive young male.
He was very thirsty! For this brief moment, he completely relaxed with our vehicle repositioning to get a front view of him drinking. And to top it off, the sun’s rays decided to break through a rather grey cloudy skyline that morning, illuminating his face and reflection perfectly.
We came across two giraffe bulls tussling with one another right next to the road. I had my 100mm-500mm lens that afternoon and in the excitement of trying to capture the action, I realized the animals were too close to the vehicle given the lens I had on. Nonetheless, I made do with what I had and the patterns and dust made for a different image.
Weaving through thick vegetation alongside one of the many drainage lines of Londolozi, we followed the Ntsevu Pride and a number of their cubs. One of the mothers decided to use this branch as a vantage point, only for a brief moment, but our vehicle was ready and waiting with just enough time to capture it.
The Ntomi Male confidently walked towards our vehicle in the heart of his mother and father’s territory (the Ximungwe Female and Senegal Bush Male). Only time will tell how much longer he’ll be tolerated in these areas.
A single cub of the Ximungwe Female's second litter. Initially rather skittish but is very relaxed now. Birth mark in his left eye.
A young male cheetah glances up as a White-backed Vulture flies past us. We often see cheetahs out in the open grasslands, so I really enjoy the composition of this image, with him sitting atop a termite mound surrounded by lush evergreen guarri bushes.
He was clearly in a hunting mood. While taking a moment to view his surroundings from a point of vantage, he stared out into the distance with such intent and focus, which is what I tried to capture in this image.
Cheetah cubs! This is a first for me. We got news from our neighbours that there was a mother cheetah with THREE small cubs moving north through the Sabi Sand. A perfect moment of being in the right place at the right time – a few of the Londolozi vehicles on that particular day got to view these animals while they traversed north through our reserve. Given their size, their mother stuck to the thicket lines so I was fortunate to have my 500mm lens with me that morning!
The notorious Plaque Rock Female striking a regal pose atop a termite mound. With it being a relatively overcast day, this provided a great opportunity to convert this image into a hi-key black and white photo.
A pretty young playful female found along the river to the east of camp
While crossing the Causeway late one afternoon, we came across this Saddle-billed Stork playing around with a stick in the water and fanning its wings at the same time. It all happened rather quickly, and I was glad my shutter speed was fast enough to capture the exquisite detail of their incredible outer primary feathers.
A member of the Toulon pack of wild dogs pondering about whether to continue down the road towards the entrance to Varty camp. It was an exhilarating morning, not more than five minutes after leaving camp, Barry Bath radioed to say the pack had been found right behind Varty Camp access.
Amidst the chase of trying to keep up with the pack of wild dogs on the move, they momentarily paused at a waterhole and were greeted by a grumpy old hippo. Naturally, they were suddenly deterred from the urge to drink and swiftly moved off.
There has been a male ostrich roaming the open crests in the northern parts of our reserve, and on this particular afternoon, given the short winter grasses, we spent a lot of time simply observing its bony bright pink legs and renowned didactic (two-toed) feet – a feature that is unique to only this type of bird. The pink colouration makes up part of the male’s breeding colouration/plumage as he attempts to attract a female.
While having a drink, the Ximungwe Female is interrupted by something that catches her attention. She scans her surroundings before continuing to quench her thirst.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
Early one morning, with the sun’s golden rays reaching our Londolozi airstrip, one of the Ndhzenga Males sits listening to the distant roars of other lions. With a number of other male lions traversing different areas of Londolozi, this coalition will have to be extra alert and vigilant to the possibility of encroaching threats to their territory.
Deciding to settle up right next to our vehicle, I could not help but be mesmerized by this Ndhzenga Male’s orange eyes and white lower eyelid.
The Three Rivers Female stares towards an impala kill hoisted in a nearby Tamboti tree that she had stolen from the Nkoveni Female overnight. These two female leopards have been seen together a lot recently, and with an aura of hostility surmounts between these two and their neighbouring territories as I am sure you saw in Sean’s recent blog.
Forced into early independence as her mother was killed by the Southern Avoca Males.
Nothing better than heading out straight from camp towards the river to find elephants drinking and an abundance of birdlife – a perfect scene!
As the sun begins to set, and herds of impala and wildebeest make their way towards the open clearings, a sudden haste of movement from a herd of impala surprised a nearby group of kudu that caused them to scatter in all directions.
This is not a sight we get to see every day, but the Ntsevu Breakaways slowly seem to be perfecting the art of hunting buffalo. After an evening and morning of them seen trailing a very large herd of buffalo, we were in the right place at the right time when the fate of a subadult female buffalo was realized. This particular buffalo had been targeted as it already looked slightly injured (reason for injury unknown) and as a result, there was very little fightback or resistance.