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

A week of changing tides in pictures – 15th November 2019

Greetings once again to all of you. I must say that it’s good to be back in the bush after a wonderfully relaxing break.  I guess it should be no surprise that in my two weeks of absence, our guides were obviously spoilt with a couple of sightings of three male cheetahs, a large pack of wild dogs, and the somewhat elusive Mayambula Pride.  And I’m guessing it will be another six weeks until the cheetahs show up again!  Not that I can complain by what the Greater Krugerhas been dishing up for me over the past week at Tanda Tula Safari Camp.

I have been out on drive all week, with mostly cloudy conditions following us around. The accompanying drop in temperatures has led to some good animal activity throughout the week.  Even a day of rain didn’t do much to dampen our efforts to show our guests some great sightings.

This past week saw an interesting change taking place in the lion dynamics of the central Timbavati. The Mayambula Pride – our residents for most of the last year – wandered into unchartered territory, and took this large pride quite far outside of the Timbavati. Although reports suggest that they were making a move back north, this suggests that the pride might not be seen as often as we would like in the coming months.

The Mbiri males joined them on their foray south, but did make a surprise appearance towards the end of the week when these impressive brothers could be heard roaring as they returned into an area that was once their fortress.  For once, their roars did not go unanswered, and camped out in the western section of our concession, the young River Pride males began roaring in return.  The Mbiri males heard this, roared back, and then listened.  The River Pride responded.  A year ago, the Mbiri males would have stood up and set off immediately in that direction to chase off any challengers that dared to stake a claim on their land.  This evening, however, the two Mbiri males simply got up and walked off in the opposite direction.  Only a few days before, the same River Pride males had been walking around near Tanda Tula Safari Camp scent-marking and strutting around like they owned the place. I chuckled to myself thinking “they wish”, but after seeing that behaviour from the Mbiri males, I am now not so confident that they will keep this part of their territory for much longer.

Exactly what is happening with the River Pride, I’m not sure.  Their composition is constantly changing, and the three males that have been absent from the females for so long suddenly reunited with them over the past week, feasted on a buffalo and then the pride split into new compositions after that; two males with one lioness, and the others moved off into Klaserie.

 

Where the male that was hanging out with the four lionesses has gotten to, I am not exactly sure.  And the fate of the fifth male remains to be seen.  Whatever happens, it does definitely appear that the lion dynamics that we got so used to in 2019 seem sure to change over the coming months.  The Zebenine lioness and her daughter were also seen a couple of times this week, and one report was made of the Giraffe Pride in the far west of the area over the past few days too.

 

Despite the lion activity, the leopards remained very active this week, with Nyeleti spearheading the sightings.  She remains very active around Tanda Tula Safari Camp, and even joined us for a drink at Camp Dam one evening.  She is still looking very pregnant and it cannot be long before she has her cubs.  We are all suspecting that the location will be along the banks of the Nhlaralumi, somewhere close to where she, herself, was born.

We also caught up with N’weti female on a few occasions this week, after she was found feeding on a duiker in the east.  Although Thumbela female remained unseen, a young male leopard was found at Machaton Dam, one of her favourite haunts.  Nthombi and Hlangana were seen on a few occasions too, and they spent two days feeding on an impala kill close to our bush breakfast site.  Both of Marula’s youngsters were seen over the course of the week, and although the young female was looking in desperate need a of a meal, they are both doing well.  With the imminent arrival of an abundance of food in the form of the lambing impala herds, life is likely to get a fair bit easier for these two survivors.

 

The bush was also filled with many other animals these past few days – giraffes aplenty, lovely pregnant impalas everywhere, and enough elephants to satisfy everyone!  The fact that the Knobthorns have started to get good leaf growth has drawn these browsers into the area in a big way, and with the little bit of rain we had this past week, this magnetising effect should be amplified.

 

We also had the rare joy of having a buffalo herd stick around the area for the whole week.  They visited Tanda Tula Safari Camp to drink at the dam every few days which helped contribute to a very busy waterhole over the past week; we saw lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo there over the past few days, in addition to the usual zebras, warthogs, impalas, kudus and nyalas.

I trust that you will enjoy this week’s selection of pictures, and I look forward to sharing more with you again next week!

Until then, 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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