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

A week of wonderful wild dogs in pictures – 6th December 2019

Greetings all, and welcome back to our weekly sightings blog.  I returned to the wonderful green surroundings of Tanda Tula Safari Camp after having spent a lovely week of game viewing a little further north in the Greater Kruger,where I got to catch up with some old animal faces from the northern Timbavati.

It was great to be back bumbling around the eastern sections of Tanda Tula and seeing every natural pan brim-full of water with lush green shoots popping out of what were simply dry soils last time I ventured into this area.  And based on how good the game viewing was in those areas, clearly the animals were enjoying these changes in conditions as much I was.

This past week, we experienced one of the most extreme changes in conditions I have seen; we went from scorching hot conditions with afternoon temperatures exceeding 40°C, only to wake up then next morning searching for fleeces and blankets in an attempt to try and stay warm in the icy cold winds that brought through a dense cloud cover for several days.  Despite the windy weather – normally seen as the least ideal for game viewing – we managed to enjoy some great sightings throughout the week, as you shall see!

The highlight of the week was no doubt the fantastic wild dog viewing that kept us company, and with the cool conditions as they were, this wasn’t a surprise.  We were lucky enough to have close to 60 individual wild dogs move through our concession this week; a pack of 21 spent much of the week within the area, a pack of 30-plus came through the eastern sections, and a small pack of three made a late appearance.  I sadly missed out on the large pack, and I will blame the wind for that!

On the fresh, chilly morning (and having already seen the pack of 21 earlier in the morning), we came across fresh tracks of another pack of wild dogs, and began following up, but as they had headed into a massive block of land, and with time running out late in my morning drive, I decided to turn around and get the guests back to Safari Campfor a warming breakfast around the fire.

Not ten minutes later, a colleague passed the area and came across the entire pack harassing a herd of wildebeest a little further down the road that I had turned around on!!!  I could have kicked myself, but we made up for that error of judgement later in the day when we spent time with the pack of 21 and followed them on a successful hunt.  Strangely, despite it being a wonderful sighting, I left it in a massive hurry when the guide making his way towards the wild dogs feeding on an impala spotted an unbelievably rare eland antelope not 500m from where we were!  They are so rare that they aren’t even on my wish list! So, realising that I actually had a chance to see one, we dashed off from the feeding dogs to search for the largest antelope in Africa, but alas, it was all in vain, and we were not able to even get a glimpse of him.  Still, it was wonderful to know that they still move into the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve,and it’s yet another reason why working in the open Greater Kruger system is so exciting, as you never know what could be waiting for you around the corner!

Our lion sightings were good throughout the week with the four River Pride lionesses and their three males (we still don’t have a name for them) spending the majority of the week in the area.  The males finished mating with the one lioness early in the week and spent the rest of the week on territorial patrols, with their roars being heard on most nights…well, except for the two windy ones!

Interestingly, when the Mbiri males made a rare appearance on the windiest day, they spent the evening roaring with intense regularity.  Both of these males were in great condition and seemed content with life in the south.  Still, when I look at their large size compared to the three new males, it perplexes me that the smaller males were able to gain control over a large chunk of the bigger males’ territory.  I guess it really is a case of “size doesn’t count” if you outnumber the opponents.

 

One of the River lionesses is looking very pregnant, and we are hoping that she gives birth within our concession in the near future. Speaking of pregnant, we caught up with Nyeleti leopardess at the beginning of the week who is looking very close to giving birth!  Either that, or there are a good few cubs inside her womb.  We didn’t manage to find her again this week which was in part due to there being very few game drive vehicles out this week, and also the possibility that she may be spending time with new cubs.  I am hoping that it was more of the latter!

 

We did struggle a little with leopards this week due to the thickening bush and availability of easy meals across the reserve in the form of the baby impalas that are now popping up all over the show, but we caught up with Nthombi (looking great!) and Marula’s son also looking full bellied.  Cleo female also made a surprise visit when she moved into our concession from the adjacent Klaserie Private Nature Reserve; something that could possibly happen more frequently following Marula’s demise. Lastly, Thumbela was reported on our southern boundary one morning, but we didn’t make the trip south to see her that morning and the wild dogs distracted us from finding her in the afternoon!

The other large members of the Big 5 played along wonderfully this week with excellent quality rhino sightings as they sought refuge from the heat in the plentiful mud wallows and loved grazing on the fresh green grass.  Elephant herds and bulls could be found across the reserve, but many of them stayed close to the riverbeds where there was easy access to water in the many natural pools that are still left along their courses.  We even enjoyed the company of a couple of buffalo herds and several bachelor groups of bulls close to camp.  Add multiple zebras, wildebeest and giraffe making use of the concession at present, and you can see that the week was a very, very pleasant one!

 

Be sure to catch up next week for another look at what has been happening in the central Timbavati.

 

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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