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

A WEEK OF SO MUCH CUTENESS - 2 November 2018

And just like that, it's November! Where exactly did this year go? However, when the weeks that are ticked off are as special as the one that just passed at Tanda Tula Safari Camp, we cannot really have any complaints.

There is no doubt about what the highlight of the past week was. It could be none other than our first viewing of Marula female leopard’s new cubs! We had suspected that she had given birth based on her absence rather than any sign of newborns, but once she moved the cubs into a potentially viewable location, I knew we had a chance to see them. What I did not expect was to see Marula casually walk up to the suspected den site, climb inside and re-emerge with one of her tiny bundles of cuteness in the tender clutches of her jaws! You can read the full story behind this sighting HERE. That sighting pretty much marked our only record of her this week, but in fairness, it was actually a slightly tough week for leopards. Despite this, Nthombi female and her cub made a welcome return to the concession towards the end of the week, she was also seen on the prowl a couple of times in the north. Thumbela female was also seen on two occasions in the east, once in the company of her daughter. Many hours were actually spent searching for her without luck. The Rothsay male leopard was found late one afternoon not too far from the camp, and although he didn’t pose for us, it was encouraging to see that he merely strolled away when we found him, rather than his usual antics of sprinting off! 

The cuteness for the week continued with the Zebenine pride and their cubs. Once again, we can happily report that both cubs are doing very well and growing by the week. We started the week off with the Mbiri males spending time with the pride, but then after a few days of absence, the males and females returned to the area in isolation. The patience that the Mbiri males continue to show towards their cubs is quite impressive, but I am sure that as they (and their teeth) grow, the males’ tolerance levels towards all the biting and nipping will begin to wane. For now though, they remain a treat to see together. As the Mbiri males pushed back south-east to briefly rejoin the Mayambula Pride, their absence gives eight members of the River Pride a window to make a brief return. After only one day, they moved off to the west. 

This week also saw one of the large packs of twenty-plus African wild dogs spending three days within our concession, allowing for some incredibly special viewing. I caught them on the hunt one afternoon - my guests and I were treated to a sighting of the pack with a freshly caught impala ewe. Due to these ewes being in the advanced stages of their pregnancies, they are slower and easier targets for predators such as wild dogs and hyenas, and are preyed upon more often at this time of the year. It will only be a couple more weeks before we get to see our first new born baby impalas. 

Away from the predators, we had some excellent rhino viewing again this week – including some wonderful sightings of the month-old rhino calf – across the concession. There has been a wounded dominant male rhino in the area, but he seems to be recovering well, and after whatever fight led to his injuries, has seemingly remained in his territory. The elephant herds returned to previous viewing standards after a brief absence and as the week progressed, numerous herds moved into the central regions of the Timbavati around Tanda Tula Safari Camp and were once more, a sight to enjoy on each drive. The same cannot be said for buffalos. Other than a few groups of buffalo bulls and one breeding herd in the far west, there was a noticeable absence of the large herds. Perhaps better rain fell in other parts of the Greater Kruger that has temporarily drawn them away. 

As the summer draws on, the chances of good rains increase. This week sadly saw no more than a sprinkling of rainfall. Despite this, there are some signs of the onset of summer to the south of the camp where the Sjambok pods (Cassia abbreviata), along with some of the bigger Marula trees (Sclerocarya birrea), are flushing green. The change might be slow now, but as soon as those first proper thunderstorm arrive, the dry landscape of the winter months will be a thing of the past, and hopefully, that change is not too far off!

Until next time! 

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

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