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

A WEEK BACK IN THE BUSH - 15 February 2019

Welcome back to our regular weekly update of the happenings here in the heart of the Timbavati. After a three week absence, I was unbelievably excited to get back to explore the bush, especially because of the inspiring videos I saw floating around on social media of all the cubs that had shown themselves in my absence! Not only had the Mayambula pride’s six cubs emerged from hiding, but Marula female leopard’s two little ones were also now out and about!

In addition, we received an addition 72mm of rain at Tanda Tula Safari Camp​, and this ensured that the lush greenery of summer was even thicker than when I left. Compared to the dry surrounds of Cape Town where I had spent the previous week, this was an incredibly welcomed environment to return to. 

Seeing the new Mayambula lion cubs was my priority so I spent a fair amount of time in the south-east looking for them and managed to pick up tracks from the mothers and cubs, but sadly our search only led to finding the mothers even though we knew where the cubs were hidden. It was with great excitement that we got to see them back in the area of the den site that afternoon, but disappointingly there was only one cub present! We do know that one cub had died the week before, but is it possibly that another four met their end between our viewings of them? The mothers were not walking around calling for the cubs, and didn’t indicate that anything was wrong, but I could not imagine a single scenario which would lead to them only bringing one cub out to suckle and leaving the other four behind. As the week progressed, there were only tracks for the mothers coming and going from the den site, so no confirmation could be had as to the fate of the other cubs. You can however be sure that we will update you on the outcome of the cubs in next weeks post. 

The presence of the Mayambula Pride meant that I spent very little time with, or looking for, the Zebenine Pride that spent the week in the south-west of the concession following a wildebeest kill; both females and the two cubs are reportedly in great condition. We also caught up with the Mbiri males through the course of the week, but their attention was focused on the western half of their territory, with the odd visit to the Zebenine Pride. 

Further west, the two Ross lionesses were seen over the weekend, and after being chased off by the Mbiri males, the River Pride remained out of the area for the rest of the week. One interesting situation was that of two unknown male lions roaring on the eastern boundary of our concession; although we never managed to see them, their presence could make for interesting times in the near future. 

On the leopard front, I sadly did not get to see Marula’s cubs this week, but they were seen with her on occasion. Madzinyo male was on patrol in the east, and whilst we were following him we managed to connect Nyeleti and her daughter. Once again, it was so amazing to see this pale-blue eyed daughter (like her grand and great-grandmother) becoming increasingly relaxed with the game viewers, even in the absence of her mom. Nthombi and her cub were also around in the north of our concession, and with each month that passes, the cubs chances of surviving to maturity are increasing. Our new young male was around earlier in the week, but appears to have ventured north, possibly under the pressure from Madzinyo male. 

The lush green conditions seem perfect for rhinos and the warm afternoons regularly saw them wallowing in the abundance of pans around the area. It was almost a given that the water points in the central regions would have elephants bathing there in the early afternoons. Something different for me was the number of elephant bulls in the area this summer – no doubt celebrating the fruiting marula trees – which is not something that we see frequently in this part of the Greater Kruger. In addition to the bulls wandering around, there were the usual large numbers of elephant herds moving around. One of the surprises though, despite the water and grass, was the complete lack of buffalo in the central and eastern sections; the only breeding herds moving around were in the far west. 

This past week was reasonably good for general game too, with wildebeest, zebra and giraffe being seen on most drives. 

Please enjoy our selection of images below, and be sure to check back in next week to see what has happened in the lives of the animals that call Tanda Tula Safari Camp their home...and with some luck, there will be some pictures of Marula’s cubs! 

Until then – Cheers - Chad

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

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