A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER by Chad Cocking

A week of versatile viewings in pictures – 13th July 2018

In my last Week In Pictures I was bemoaning the fact that we had yet to see our new lion cubs this, naturally, that led to their first appearance on the very same afternoon that the blog post was published! I am very happy to report that the last week has provided some great viewing of the two young cubs and the two Zebenine lionesses.

However, even better news, straight from the bush, was that the second lioness eventually gave birth to her cubs last night! Although Scotch couldn’t see them, he could hear them all crying in the thicket before the lioness popped out briefly. Not wanting to disturb her, he left the area, and we now begin out countdown until we get to see these new arrivals! Based on the size of her belly, we are hopeful that this will be a larger litter than the other lionesses.

Sticking with lions, the Mbiri males were almost a non-entity during the last reporting period and only showed themselves once when they returned to the den site all battered and bruised. We can only presume these two males have been out searching for more mating opportunities and were obviously met with some resistance. The younger male appears lucky to have not lost an eye as his face was severely mauled, and the older male had damage to his lower lip. The fact that after only one visit back to the den site they then disappeared to an area of the Timbavati more than twelve kilometers away suggests to me that whoever they fought, they may have been victorious and appear to have some female interests elsewhere.

The last few days have seen tracks of two male lions in our south-eastern corner, but they keep heading back east towards the Kruger National Park, and as a result, we are still awaiting the return of the Mbiri males. With their presence lacking, the nine members of the River Pride have been venturing into the area more frequently. Alarmingly, this pride has passed right by the Zebenine Pride’s den site twice in the last two weeks. Fortunately, they didn’t find either the cubs or the lionesses. The discovery of these predators would have ended very badly. The best sighting of this large pride was when they managed to kill a young giraffe one windy night and we got to enjoy them feeding on the remains the next day. The two Ross females showed up only once in the west this past week.

Lions aside, this period again belonged to none other than the elephants, to the point where some of my guests actually asked if Tanda Tula meant “the place of the elephants!”. It has been quite remarkable to see literally hundreds of elephants on every game drive – some herds alone numbered well over a hundred and fifty individuals! Seeing herds of twenty to thirty elephants drinking at the waterhole in front of Tanda Tula Safari Camp has become the norm over the past few weeks, and it shows no sign of slowing down. The buffalo herds have been less active in the central region, but they have been frequenting the waterholes in the west on most days. Towards the end of the week, a large herd of three hundred-odd buffaloes made an appearance in the central regions; perhaps they will help draw the Mbiri males back into the area?

Despite the bush drying up, the leopard viewing has been slow to respond, and we have had to work very hard to locate these spotted beauties. Some wonderful news is that Nthombi female has given birth to some cubs; we are estimating them to be around two week old, so they have not been seen yet. Nthombi has been very active around the Nhlaralumi to the west of Tanda Tula, leaving tracks in the area on a daily basis. Sadly though, she has remained more elusive than we are used to and we have only seen her a couple of times. Marula has shown up occasionally, but seems to be moving around her territory more than usual, making it difficult to keep track of her. Nyeleti and her cub were seen once on our eastern boundary, but Thumbela and her two youngsters have disappeared again and we have not even been able to find any sign of them to follow up on.

The wild dogs remain sporadically in the area, and pop in to hunt from time to time, but as yet, the pups have not started to move with the pack. We will probably have to wait another few weeks before they are old enough to keep up with the pack.

Other than that, the bush remains a wonderful place to be at the moment with lovely viewing of all sorts of general game – big and small – which is keeping the guides and guests entertained on a daily basis, and as winter carries on, it will hopefully only get better!

Until next time, here are some pictures of the week to enjoy!

By courtesy of the Tanda Tula Safari Camp http://www.tandatula.com/blog/

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