A Week in the Bush Vol. 484on Dec 06, 2023
This week has been all about the leopards with plenty of sightings of various individuals…
We followed up on some vultures and eagles landing on the ground not too far from where we were. After driving around and stopping to listen, we found the big Mawelawela male sniffing along the ground. We realised he was also trying to figure out why the vultures were around, but there was no sign of anything. We moved on while he carried on sniffing the area.
Leopards also scavenge and look at the behaviour of vultures and eagles. Most of the time, vultures would lead them to dead animals or kills of other weaker predators like cheetahs, and that is an easy meal for the leopard to steal.
The afternoon drive started with us heading over to follow up on the morning sighting of the Ntsumi female. It was an exciting moment as it had been a few days since we last saw her and her cubs. We entered the area, and there was little sign of the stealthy mother. We persevered, checking every road we could and then double-checking. A glimpse of a mother warthog and her many piglets dashed away from the road. At least 6 charismatic little hogs followed her into the dense brush; however, no leopard.
We continued following the road that looped back on itself, and there was another quick glimpse, this time of a leopard bounding across the road, shortly followed by frantic movement and squealing. We turned around, and on the other side, Ntsumi emerged carrying a meal to feed her and her hungry little family.
A few days later we saw Ntsumi again and what we witnessed is something that could best describe “untamed Africa”. We were excited as we had just found a mother leopard and her cubs, but things quickly changed as a hyena moved in and was after the cubs. Then more hyenas arrived… Read all about this incredible sighting in Ronald’s blog, 'A Mother’s Instinct'.
After reports of a female leopard, we decided to follow up. Thinking about the direction and area of the leopard's movements, we narrowed our focus area and soon found the Kigelia female strolling down the road, scent-marking her territory. A hyena got too close for comfort, and she briefly went up a Marula tree to get out of sight for the hyena and then relaxed until the potential threat moved off. Leopards often get followed around by hyenas as they know the leopards will make a kill sooner or later and potentially give them a chance to snatch the kill away from them before hoisting it up a tree.
Driving around as the temperatures rise is never easy, especially when a leopard is high on the to-see list. We drove past a small watering hole when tracker Donald's voice was filled with relief as he exclaimed, "Leopard!"
The beautiful Golonyi female was lying in the shade, closely watching a herd of impala with newborn lambs. With the high temperature, she will stay close to them, only striking when there is a real opportunity, or stay close until nightfall when the elements are in her favour again before she strikes.
This female has covered a lot of ground over the last couple of days and might be looking for a male again, but only time will tell.
On a morning drive, a special and rare sighting of the N'weti male leopard spurred us to check up on him, and we found him sleeping in the shade of a large tree. As the sun set and the temperatures cooled, he became more active. We watched as he got up and scent-marked nearby, anticipating him to make a trip to a watering hole. To our surprise, he stuck his head into a dense bush and emerged with a baby impala.
Amazingly, he had stashed the kill he'd made earlier in the day until he was again hungry. He lay back down and began feeding on his meal. He ate quietly and uninterrupted until suddenly, his ears spiked up. He looked intently in one direction before hastily grabbing his meal and hustling to a nearby tree. Despite his hulking size, he ascended the tree with the grace of a ballet dancer and the speed of a squirrel. A large hyena emerged from the darkening bush, pursuing the scent trail it hoped would lead it to food. Unfortunately for the hyena, this carcass had an owner who, now safe in a tree, continued with his meal.
It is rather amazing to witness Nottins grow from strength to strength with each passing day. With Nweti's genetics encoded into Nottins, it is not particularly surprising to see him employ the same warthog-catching techniques as his father. Patiently waiting on top of termite mounds for any unsuspecting prey to emerge from the dark hole below. We watched Nottins for a good time as he ambled from warthog hole to warthog hole looking for a good meal. Alarming monkeys, joined by a choir of Rattling cisticola birds, made being stealthy very difficult, consequently causing Nottins to retire to some shade before attempting it all again.
As guides and trackers, it is essential to know the animals and understand their own behaviours and movements, especially leopards. Jasiri is a small and shy female, not often seen but known to frequent the southwestern section of the reserve. Trackers and guides refer to her as 'tsava mafazi' meaning the scared female. Her elusive behaviour and shy antics result in us as guides treating her with the utmost respect and empathy to calm her demeanour and build trust between us. She is an absolute showstopper, and we hope to see her settle down and establish a territory where she feels comfortable and bring on the next generation of gorgeous leopards.
A lengthy tracking exercise finally led us to the Southern Pride, resting in some shade early on a hot morning. Although resting, lions are always alert to potential opportunities. Circling vultures nearby certainly spiked the pride's interest, and they went to investigate. The pride cautiously approached the area where the vultures were dropping to the ground and, on arrival, found a baby impala carcass that the vultures had eaten. With nothing left for the lions, they moved off to a shady Tamboti thicket to wait for the next opportunity to emerge.
After a very successful morning drive, we thought nothing could add to the excitement. To our surprise, we found the two Talamati males soaking up the morning sun as we came around the next corner. These males have spent a lot of time on our reserve and are growing by the day; exciting times ahead to see where they will call home. Male lions will often lurk around other males' territories, getting to know the area where they feel comfortable while building their confidence levels and later trying to take over from the current males. It will be no easy task as the lion dynamics are changing frequently with a high population of lions in and around our reserve.
This big bull elephant made his way to a small waterhole where we watched as he quenched his thirst before moving off to continue with his day. Big bull elephants like this can drink up to 200 litres at a time.
No better way to end a safari than with two male giraffes forming the perfect portrait. These two males were part of a big journey of giraffes. Giraffes often hang around in bigger groups before splitting off into smaller groups and are often seen by themselves; they do not have set groups and come and go as they wish.
The Greater blue-eared Starling is a common resident at Sabi Sabi. They forage on the ground and in trees, and hawk termite alates aerially. The lateral placement of the eyes towards the front of the face enables some binocular vision, which is essential when grabbing prey. These birds will also feed on fruit, berries and nectar.
Young hyenas are some of the most curious animals out there. These youngsters came to inspect what we were with mom close by, keeping an eye on their movements. They later retrieved to their den site with an elephant bull coming too close for comfort. Hyena cubs generally stay with their mom for about two years before heading out on their own in search of a new clan to join and start delivering their services to help the other individuals.
The unique structure of owls' eyes makes eye movement difficult within the socket. This necessitates moving the head through a wider arc to get a good field of view, resulting in modifications to the neck vertebrate, particularly the atlas-axis jointer, and more extensive articulation, which allows owls a wider field of vision.
It is not every day that one gets the chance to see the all too elusive Serval. Whilst bumbling along following Kigelia into the evening, tracker Dollen spots movement near Kigelia. Not enough cause for an investigation was the original verdict until Dollen noticed the unmistakable pounce of a Serval hunting for rodents. Childish excitement arose from all guests in the vehicle as we turned and instantly left Kigelia, moving to the Serval. Unfortunately, the pounce did not deliver any food but burnt enough energy to justify a quick rest in the tall grass before reattempting to locate and capture a well-deserved meal.
Until next time…
Blog by Wendy Claase
Images by Daniel Greyvenstein, Devon Jansen, Jason Street, JP van Rooyen, Ronald Mutero and Ruan Mey