Leopard Diaries 18-31 May 2012
The first cold front of the season has come and gone dropping the temperatures in the lowveld to around five degrees Celsius in the early mornings. The Red Bush willows and the Knob Thorns are losing their leaves and the grass is brown and dry, causing even the lightest footed animal to rustle as it moves through the undergrowth. Winter is finally here.
For some time, the dominant male leopard,Tingana was followed around by Karula. Since her current cubs, Xivindsi and Xivambalana, are both now well over a year old, she should be coming back into oestrus. Tingana for some reason wanted nothing to do with the female and after a few days, she dropped away.
Having just lost Karula, we found Tingana on a kill with Moya. Moya is now around two and a half years old and it is likely that she is coming into oestrus as well. We watched them on the kill for two days, every time the female moved closer to the male, making a soft call to him called "chuffing" to clarify her intentions, he would chase her with a violent growl. It seems that he does not like the company of females, whether in oestrous or not.
Once they left the kill, Moya followed Tingana for three days, they mated periodically but not according to the "text book" marathon mating sessions lion and leopard are known for. I can't help but wonder if she is in fact in oestrous or if she has already been mated by a londolozi male and is pseudo mating with Tingana.
Salayexe is finally starting to show that she is pregnant. Her mammary glands are swollen and she is looking a little round in the belly. She is moving well into the morning, looking for places to hide her litter where it will be safe. She may use an existing den site as before or she might try a new spot, only time will tell.
After a long, unsuccessful night hunting, Salayexe was marking territory not far from the lodge. She was mostly scent marking but with the odd cough as well, this attracted a hyena from the nearby den site. When she noticed the hyena approaching she lay flat in the grass. Just before the hyena got to her, he turned and picked up the scent of where she had come from and moved passed her by no more than three metres and moved away.
We had a few sightings in the last two weeks of Shadow, as well as an appearance by Kwatile and Lamula. Whilst in the East, we got to spend some time with Mvula too.
The Styx pride spent much of their time in the West of our traverse area over the last few days. One morning they followed a herd of around 200 buffalo for a few kilometres, at one point, getting within only a few metres of the trailing animals. One lioness crept right up to a termite hill and actually sniffed the back end of a large bull, then backed down again.
We thought we were going to see some serious action but the lions finally took a young buffalo cow later in the day and we found them, bellies full, that afternoon.
Only brief sightings of the Tsalala five were had, with them just appearing in for a day or two at a time, they seem to be moving between us and Londolozi more often now.
We enjoyed a brief sighting of wild dogs, only five of them were seen. We found them moving North and on the hunt, they were moving in the general direction of the two leopards on a kill. They came across a bachelor herd of impala and the chase was on. One of the dogs brought an impala down within a hundred metres of the tree holding Tingana and Moya, who were well out of reach, but surprised none the less.
The current hyena den gave us a surprise when along with the now five month old pup, two new born pups tumbled out of the den. Showing no fear, they played with each other and the other pup completely oblivious to us. However, with pups that young we are still restricting the vehicle activity at the den as we don't want to scare them away from this den and risk losing them again.
As we are coming into winter, the risk of fire is far greater, and so the Sabi Sands has burned the fire break around the perimeter of the reserve. This fire may take out a few small animals and arthropods but nothing goes to waste. African wild cats, civets, genets and even this serval have been spotted combing the area for a quick meal.