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

A WEEK OF MORE STUNNING SIGHTINGS IN PICTURES - 7th June 2019

After last week’s awesome game viewing, I was mentally preparing myself for a week that was going to be comparatively disappointing. Seven days later, and I can tell you that it was anything but, and once again, the Timbavati spoilt the Tanda Tula guests. 

As per my last blog post, the highlight of the week was spending some time with the grand old queen of the central Timbavati, Nthombi female leopard. She demonstrated why she is such a successful leopard by using conditions to suit herself, successfully stalking and catching a young male impala whilst we were watching her late one morning. This was the second impala kill that we had seen her with in the week. The first one also provided us with the biggest disappointment of the week: the realisation that her “daughter”, and heir to the throne, had something that most daughters don’t have. A set of testicles. Her “daughter” is actually her son, and somehow, for the past 11 months of his life, we have misidentified him! This is not the first (and won’t be the last) time that the gender of young leopards has confused us, but it is particularly disappointing this time around as this was likely Nthombi’s last chance to raise a daughter.  

As it turns out, this will be her sixth male offspring she has raised. Fortunately, Marula is still doing a great job raising her cubs and although they were less prevalent this week, they were still seen three times. The week also provided for some male leopard viewing for a change; Madzinyo male made a rare appearance towards the end of the week, and at the same time Ntsongwaan was also feasting on a warthog kill in the west. Thumbela and Nyeleti females were found squaring off against one another at Machaton Dam, but sadly efforts to track them the next day once more failed to deliver sightings of them. Antony also found himself a nice young male leopard in the central region of the concession – time will tell if he hangs around or not. 

The lions of the region were quite active this week, with all major prides showing up. The Mbiri male lions were particularly vocal and present in the central regions for much of the week. Very little compares to sitting next to these impressive males as they roar their dominance over their territory. Interestingly, one morning whilst watching them roaring, there were some lions answering some distance to the east. This part of the Greater Kruger is non-commercial and so there is little information coming out of that area about the lions that reside there, hence we have no help in knowing who was roaring back. Four of the future challengers for this part of the Timbavatiwere also seen later in the week when a portion of the River Pride were seen in the west. Late one morning, we also followed up on some vultures in the west and came across a portion of the Giraffe Pride feasting on a wildebeest that they must have caught a few hours earlier. The Mayambula Pride only showed themselves on one day in the past week, but four lionesses with ten cubs in tow will always provide for great viewing, even if their visit was short-lived. The Zebenine Pride finished off their giraffe and milled around the area for a while, but despite being close by they were proving to be a real challenge to track down. They were seen late in the week with the pregnant female still boasting a swollen belly so perhaps this week will be the week she gives birth? 

The cheetah and wild dogs that graced us with their presence last week remained elusive over the past seven days, but there was so much else happening that we didn’t miss them too much. For a change, we had the constant presence of buffalos in the area with one herd in the west, and a herd of 65-odd spending almost all week in the central parts of the concession. The elephant herds remained spread out across the reserve, with daily sightings of both big bulls and large breeding herds beginning to concentrate around the water points and riverbeds as the shades of autumn slowly start giving way to the dryness of winter. This also led to great general game viewing with many zebras and giraffes across the reserve and also the welcome return of some ostrich. 

On the smaller game front, there were reports of the fourth serval sighting in the past month, as well as honey badgers, porcupines and African wild cats which is so exciting. 

So, all in all, it was another fantastic week of game viewing, and I am going to keep my fingers tightly crossed in the hope that next week will be just as good! Be sure to check in then next week to see what our animals have been up to! 

Until next time ~ 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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