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

A WEEK OF OPPRESSIVE HEAT IN PICTURES – 9th August 2019

For once, the weatherman’s forecasts were not wrong, and the heatwave that he warned of last week came to fruition, with daily temperatures settling into the upper mid-thirties, culminating in a maximum of 36 degrees yesterday. Although it still didn’t feel quite as hot as a typical summer’s day, the animals seemed to think otherwise! It was capped by an afternoon spent watching lions and leopards too drained by the heat to even lift their heads to acknowledge us!

The past week did see a definite dip in terms of our cat sightings, especially of the spotted nature, but as the week moved on things improved. After starting the week out with a lovely sighting of Nthombi and her son resting up a Marula Tree with the remains of a kill, things suddenly turned quiet. Three days of tracking phantom leopards in the east eventually helped lead to a sighting of the blue-eyed Thumbela leopardess, but it sounds like she may have lost her litter of cubs, as the guides mentioned that she didn’t appear to be lactating anymore. Following this find, the leopards played along a bit better with sightings of Nyeleti, Nthombi’s boy, as well as another male leopard opportunistically thieving a kill from some hyenas, who in turn had stolen it from a small pack of wild dogs! It appeared that the wild dogs had lost their kill to a hyena, only for the leopard to take it back, but in trying to hoist it, he dropped it. One hyena then moved off with a scrap of the kill, separating itself from the pack; the leopard used this opportunity to run in and grab it back – the scuffle alerted the two wild dogs who promptly came running in sending the leopard scampering for safety up the closest tree!

It wasn’t just the leopards that made us work for our sightings this past week. The ever-reliable Mayambula pride eventually made the move that we feared they would, and for the first time ever crossed out of the Timbavati into the adjoining Klaserie Reserve. This would not have been so bad had they not made a large kill that kept them there for three days before they eventually made their way back east. Despite that, when they were back in the Timbavati they spent most of their time sleeping off full bellies. The best of the sightings was seeing the pride feeding on a large male kudu they had caught the night before. In the absence of the Mayambula Pride, the Zebenine lionesses made some valued appearances, and the mother and her daughter were seen on several days during the past week, they were definitely looking better fed than they had been the previous times. The Mbiri males joined forces with them towards the end of the week before once more breaking off to do some territorial patrolling in the central and western regions. The male’s absence from the eastern sections of Tanda Tula Safari Camp meant that some other lions could come in and explore the surrounds, and this is exactly what three of the young River Pride males did when they were tracked crisscrossing the open areas of the east and south-east, this is the first time this pride has been seen moving in these areas. With the absence of both the Mayambula Pride and the Mbiri males from this area, it is not a surprise that some lions would move in to fill the void.

With at least two large buffalo herds moving between the central and eastern sections of the concession, it won’t be long before these young male lions start pursuing them into Mbiri territory in search of a good meal. The Mbiris did also latch onto one of the breeding herds of buffalo towards the end of the week but sadly were not successful in getting themselves a meal. The giraffe they consumed in Klaserie earlier in the week no doubt left little room in their bellies for much else.

On the elephant front, the herds have started to become more apparent across most of the concession. The highlight of the week was, no doubt, having the enormous Apollo chasing after the herds in the area. When exactly he does the chasing, I am not sure, because, on most of the occasions that we caught up with him, he would casually spend his time almost unmoved, feeding on whatever vegetation was close at hand. Despite being in musth, he is simply the calmest and confident elephant I have seen in a long, long time!

Although the Knobthorn Trees are still a couple of weeks away from starting their pre-spring bloom, it seems as though the giraffes have moved into the area in some good numbers in anticipation of the bounty that is about to be unleashed upon them! Together with plenty of zebras and scattered herds of wildebeest (as well as some ostrich), these game species have ensured that even when the leopards made it a little more difficult for us last week, we always had something interesting to look at.

Until next time!

Cheers ~ Chad

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

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