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

A WEEK OF GOOD MOTHERS IN PICTURES12 April 2019

Welcome back to your weekly instalment of all the happenings in the Timbavati, and at the risk of sounding like a broken-down record, what a lovely week it has been! To say that it has been stress-free guiding out there would be an understatement, as each day brought with it some more wonderful viewing for guests at Tanda Tula Safari Camp

Re-reading last week’s blog, it was probably the only one in ages that I didn’t end off saying “hopefully next week will bring my first proper sighting of Marula’s cubs”, and fortunately for you, you won’t be having to read that line again. At long last, I managed to see her rapidly growing cubs. Marula had a successful week of hunting and was found with two different kills which led to the cubs coming out of hiding and eventually showing themselves to me for the first time. Still a little shy due to the general lack of vehicle exposure, the cubs showed that it won’t take long before they are as relaxed as their mother. Even within a day of viewing them at the second kill, they had already relaxed remarkably and provided the guests with some great viewing. There is a little boy who seems to be a tad more confident than his sister at the moment, but if we can keep up with regular viewings of them, they should become completely comfortable with our presence in no time. Thumbela leopardess was also evident in the east and we found her out and about on a couple of occasions looking somewhat pregnant – so hopefully more cubs on their way soon! One lovely morning saw us following up on lion tracks when we rounded the corner and found Thumbela crossing the road; we tried to relocate her on the other side of the drainage line and whilst doing so found the lioness and cubs that we had been looking for. Finishing off with them, we turned around, relocated Thumela 200m away and watched her stalking impalas for the rest of the morning. Some days are just tougher than others in the Greater Kruger! Apart from those ladies, the other leopards kept a little quiet in the area, but that was more as a result of their not being many vehicles on drive to check for them as opposed to them not being around.  

The lioness mentioned above was the lone Mayambula lioness with the two smallest cubs, fortunately with the den site being found, we then managed to see her several times during the week with the two healthy looking cubs. Despite still being alone, she is doing a great job of keeping both herself and the cubs in very good condition. The remaining portion of the pride was only found once this week on our very southern boundary, but reports suggest that all eight cubs are still with them. After moaning a little about the lions’ behaviour last week, they redeemed themselves this week and the Zebenine Pride, who spent the whole week in the company of the Mbiri males, were seen most days. As the week drew to a close, the Mbiri males split off with the lioness without cubs, and this could be a precursor to some upcoming mating activity. As for the River Pride, the constant presence of lion tracks in the east eventually led to us finding three of the young males on their own a couple of times this week; it took us a while to figure out who they were, as they are so calm with the vehicles that they are like a different pride compared to a year ago! The youngest of the males was sporting a number of bite and scratch marks that indicated that these boys have had an altercation with other lions in the area. Where the other six members of the pride are remains a mystery. Regardless, the lions of the central Timbavati provided us with lovely game viewing on a daily basis this week. 

Finishing off with the predatory news, there was a small pack of wild dogs who spent the majority of the week within our concession; the pack of four (two males and two females) moved around the central regions surrounding our camp and were seen on four days this week – despite their small size, they always looked well-fed which is a testament to this species’ incredible hunting abilities.

The large buffalo herd that passed through the central area last week moved to the western part of the concession in the early part of the week leaving only the odd buffalo bull around, but as autumn pushes on, this herd - and others - will return. The elephants were also favouring the western half of the concession for most of the week, but we were treated to a stunning scene as they made a move to the east on the last day of the week. We spent a part of the morning watching a herd of around 80 elephants (with an incredible number of small babies!) steadily moving deeper and deeper into the concession, with word that a few kilometres west of them were still more herds coming towards the central region. 

A lovely facet of this week of game-viewing was the abundance of general game in the open areas of the concession, and many, many wildebeest and zebras were seen on drives each day this week. Despite the grass drying rapidly, there is just so much grazing still available that these grazers are loving life. These same grasses are still keeping the Red-billed Quelea colony going, but I suspect that the chicks will be ready to fly off in the next week or two and when that happens the colony will disperse to new feeding grounds. 

Cheers ~ Chad 

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

You can also follow Chad on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chadcocking

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