Another day in the Life of a Game Ranger. God’s creation in the wild.


Sunday saw us waking up in the middle of the night to the arrival of the cold front, and the gusty winds didn’t bode well for a day of game viewing…

but luckily, I am sometimes wrong. As all the other guides were staying in the north, I opted to head south hoping that Nthombi female leopard would be around, so I headed straight south, which was slow going as we drove straight into the cold wind, ticking off zebras, steenbuck, impala and kudu as we went. As we were moving south, another guide informed me that both Nthombi and her 7 week old cub were at the den site – I told my guests that we would have to go a little quicker, and of course, then all the animals started popping out; elephant herds, kudus, saddle-billed storks and the impalas, but we pushed on and soon arrived to find Nthombi sitting by a large fallen leadwood tree, and saw the little cub move off as we approached, but within a minute it came running out to play with mom again, and we spent the next half an hour enjoying what I might possibly rate as my best ever leopard sighting, based purely on the fact that this little leopard cub is just so unbelievably relaxed!!! I think i am still grinning from what a stunning sighting we had as the cub stalked and pounced on mom, climbed up and down the log, and was just irresistibly cute! I think I shall just let the photos speak for themselves, and say that I won’t forget that first sighting in a hurry, and hope and pray that it is the first of many! We slowed things down after that and enjoyed zebras and impalas before some coffee. After coffee, more zebra and kudu occupied our lenses as we carried on checking the south which had fair general game despite the wind, and we also came across some more elephant herds before heading back north (seeing more elephants) towards the lodge. Henry had tracked and found two different leopard kills this morning, but neither leopard was present.

My midday photo editing session was disturbed by the terrified squeals of a warthog being attacked, and I ran outside to see most the staff watching where Machaton male leopard had attacked a warthog right in the middle of the staff village, but the lucky hog got away and the leopard moved off to the west!

In the afternoon, we began with a small herd of buffalo bulls east of the lodge, and had hoped to go see one of Henry’s leopards, but sadly neither kill had the killer in attendance, and we assumed that they must both be skittish individuals. As a result, I went to follow up on the (at that stage) unknown male leopard that had attacked the warthog, and dropped Difference off at the site of the attack whilst I spent time watching three elephant bulls in the water near our bush breakfast site. It didn’t take too long for him to call me to tell me that he had found the leopard, and after picking him up, it didn’t take us long to locate the leopard, but it disappeared into a rocky outcrop, but soon he popped out and went to drink at the water where the elephants were still milling around at, and we could identify him as Machaton male. Sadly, he is looking in a very poor state, and he was reminiscent of Argyle Jnr female before she died last year – as a dominant male in the north, I think his days are numbered, and I mentioned to my guests how, with Ntima male pushing north, it won’t be long before there is a new ruler of the north. We left him when he flopped down in a sedge thicket on the banks of the Sohebele and carried on to Argyle Dam, where we enjoyed some large crocodiles and another four elephant bulls, but oddly, no hippos? Brad had been busy in the east and followed up on some vulture activity and he and Jacky found a buffalo carcass with signs of a male and female lion in the area, but as the tracks moved all over the show, they failed to find the cats and moved off to the north, where he found part of the Investec pack of wild dogs! I was heading into the area of the buffalo carcass when Difference very casually pointed ahead, and up in a marula tree we saw an impala hanging out…and the leopard responsible for putting her there; Ntima male. He was looking in great shape, and perhaps my earlier words will come to fruition sooner than I thought, as he is right in the heart of Machaton’s territory now. Leaving the leopard after he climbed down from the tree, we moved east and arrived in the area of the kill to see some nervous looking hyenas about 80m away, and this immediately suggested that the lions were still around, and sure enough, when we arrived, we found the lone Sumatra lioness feeding on the carcass, but looking around nervously.

Thinking that it was just hyenas, I didn’t pay much attention, but after Difference told me he didn’t think that this was her kill, I looked at the situation and came to the same conclusion – she just wasn’t fat enough to have been eating on this carcass for two days. As we were leaving, the reason why she wasn’t fat became evident when two new male lions came into view heading in the direction of what I can only assume was their kill! At their slow approach, the lioness spotted them and trotted off, but they didn’t give chase and instead settled at the carcass to feed some more – their fat bellies indicating that they had been here for a while. We left them and made our way home delighted with what was a really fantastic day of game viewing, despite the less than ideal conditions!

Let’s hope that with the wind stopping tomorrow, the sightings get even better!

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