Leopard Diaries July 2012
It was sad to see that Shadow (top left) has been mating with Tingana again. She was last seen at the beginning of June heavily pregnant so by the looks of things she has lost her cubs once again. It has been recorded that if a female leopard has stillborn cubs then she may come into oestrus immediately. This seems to be the case as she's had two separate mating cycles with Tingana in one month. When female leopards come into oestrus they initiate the whole mating process, so they do sometimes take a risk in moving into unfamiliar territories in order to find a male to mate with - as the males have larger territories than the females. In Shadow's case every time she found Tingana he was deep into Salayexe's territory. We had a couple of sightings with all three leopards together until Salayexe (top right) had enough and chased Shadow away, on one occasion coming to blows but thankfully there were no serious injuries. Salayexe also gave birth to her cubs on the 28th of June (We know the date as she had the cubs under the deck of the Simbambili Lodge SPA).
Kwatile (left) has also been seen mating with Lamula again. She has mated with this male several times over the past few months and everyone thought she should have been pregnant. She was also seen with a freshly killed duiker one morning and eventually got chased up a close by Marula tree by some hungry hyenas, luckily with her hard earned kill tightly gripped within her jaws.
Other male leopards seen during the past month have been Xivambalana (top left) who killed a side striped Jackal and fed on his kill underneath a small Jackalberry tree for one night. It's good to see this young male of the female leopard Karula enjoying independent life. Unfortunately we've had no sign of his sister, Xavindzi, over the last few months so we hope that she's still alive.
Another unidentified male (top right), who was once previously spotted close to Otthawa boundary last December, was seen this month on an impala kill he had hoisted up a Saffron tree. By the looks of this male we think he's not as young as he is small, maybe just poor genes.
Lamula (bottom left) has been seen frequently as well. He is looking more and more impressive every time and is also extending his territory further and further.
One of the highlights of the month was definitely when one of Nyeleti's male cubs (bottom right) joined us on our sundowner drinks break one afternoon. He is so relaxed and also starting to look like his father, Tyson. His brother, Mati, hasn't been seen in a while but at least we know that Moya, his sister, is doing well.
As Tingana becomes more and more dominant in the area the females, too, are realising where their best opportunities lie to have a father for their cubs. Although male leopards don't actively play a role in parenting their offspring, they do indirectly protect their cubs by defending their territory against other male leopards as they too, like male lions, will kill cubs that don't belong to them (infanticide) - so a big male leopard will obviously be more attractive to the females than a smaller, less dominant one. The fact that Tingana has been with four different females in the past month is evidence of his growing dominance. The photos above show Tingana, Moya and Karula as they mate, get chased by lions up a tree and Tingana dominating the feeding on an impala they had killed and hoisted. Most of these sightings took place well within Salayexe's territory and I think this is the reason that the two females actually tolerated one another's presence the whole time as they weren't as confident as they would've been in their own domain. Salayexe, who chased Shadow away the week before, didn't really interfere with Karula and Moya – maybe she was a little intimidated by the fact that there were two females that she had to contend with.
While we were watching the fascinating interaction between Tingana, Moya and Karula the four young Tsalala Pride lions came out of nowhere and chased them up a tree before showing off their own tree climbing capabilities. These lionesses have constantly been in battle with the two older Tsalala lionesses who seem to be chasing them away from their territory in the northern parts of Londolozi. These two older lionesses are also the mothers to the four younger Tsalala's and this type of behaviour seems to raise many questions about the intricate lion dynamics and relationships of certain prides.
The new tailless female and her sister (left pic) that form part of the older Tsalala pride are formidable lionesses and their sheer size compared to most of the other lion prides in the area is an impressive sight. Bibi (right pic) is clearly beginning to show that she is pregnant and hopefully we'll see this very successful mother raise yet another litter of cubs, which would be the first litter of Bibi's sired by the Majingilane Males.
While we were watching a herd of about 300 buffalo we noticed that they weren't totally relaxed. We also knew in the back of our minds that lion tracks had been seen everywhere that morning. All of a sudden the whole herd started stampeding past our vehicle, the noise of their hooves against the earth was amazing, then we heard it – the unmistakable sound of death. As we drove into the bush we could see the lionesses busy killing a young buffalo calf. It was the Styx pride, two lionesses and two of the young males. It was interesting to see that the oldest female with the nickname; "Gogi" had the stranglehold on the buffalo's neck even though she's missing most of her teeth. When she had finished killing the buffalo we watched how the old lioness struggled to even get through the thick hide of the buffalo's stomach; she got so tired that she in fact gave up. When the rest of the pride members got to the scene the buffalo carcass was finished in a matter of minutes, we wonder whether "Gogi" even got any meat. It's sad to witness such a majestic animal wither away as they get older, this individual lioness has been through three different male lion take-overs and sired countless cubs, a true legend of lions in the Northern Sabi Sands. The Styx pride have been hanging around the north for a long period now even venturing as far as Torchwood and Vuyatela.
The Styx pride as they rest on Chitwa Chitwa airstrip one morning.
The two young hyena cubs are proving to be the highlight of many game drives as they constantly use their den site as a jungle gym.
The young Styx male lion made an appearance and although it was great to see him again he wasn't looking too good and is clearly struggling for food. As always, the elephant herds are always around and are great to watch for long periods as their strong bonds become obvious to see.
A White-breasted Cuckooshrike was a rare sighting and a juvenile African Goshawk caught in flight
An African Cuckoo Hawk was another rare bird sighting for some of our keen birding guests.
The Simbambili team
© Photos and text by Liam Rainier