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

A Week of More Rejuvenating Rains in Pictures – 17 December 2019

Wow, what a wonderful week of earth-soaking rain we had here at Tanda Tula Safari Camp! Over the course of four wet days, we received 93mm of soft, continuous rain that rejuvenated the bush in such a way that not even pictures could do it justice.

The rain that fell was not of good quantity, but GREAT quality, meaning that whatever fell soaked into the ground rather than simply running off.  By the end of the rain, the ground was so saturated that water was actually pouring out of the soils along the seep lines. This kept not only the small drainage lines flowing with water for a few days, but also the larger river beds that have had a gentle trickle of water along their courses for the last three days – just magical to see!

I guess that the reason that I enjoyed the rain so much was because I wasn’t on drive for the wettest days and didn’t have to cope with the challenges that a wet Timbavati Private Nature Reservepresents!  With the ground being as wet as it is, we have had to avoid all off-road driving for much of the week so as not to destroy the environment which we rely on to keep on giving us such great sightings. Fortunately, though, many of the animals were obliging enough to have spent their time close to the road in areas where we could still see them without needing to drive off road.

It was a week that belonged to the lions. The three new males of the River Pride were seen and heard on most days. They continued to mate with the females of the River Pride, and this only bodes well for a whole lot of new cubs coming to the area soon!  I did get a little concerned when the Mbiri males started pushing further north than they have for months and we found them close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp one rainy afternoon.  They actually gave us a great sighting as they went running into an area where they had clearly heard the alarm calls of some impalas, and realised that a leopard had more than likely made a kill.

The two males then went and investigated the large Marula trees in the area of the alarm calls looking for the leopard’s kill, but they didn’t have much joy and settled down.  We left them and went to see another leopard close by (the gorgeous Xidulu male on the prowl), but when Civilized relocated the lions, they had eventually found the leopard’s kill!  Fortunately for the leopard, he had stashed the baby impala high enough up the tree that the lions didn’t even contemplate trying to get it.

Instead, the two males set off roaring their dominance over the southern parts of our concession before heading back south-west, and away from a potential meet-up with the three new males.  Any conflict between these coalitions now could well send ripples through the River Pride, which wouldn’t be good for the stability of their presence in the area.  However, it appears as though a line has been drawn in the sand and both coalitions of male lions are happy as long as the other party stays on their respective side of this line.

A couple of days later the Mbiri males were found with a zebra kill in the south before making one last appearance at the end of the week.  My hope is that with the Mbiri males patrolling within our concession, the Mayambula Pride will make a return to a part of their territory that is now livening up with good prey species.

The leopard activity was a little on the slow side with the bush being as thick as it was, also the rain washed away any sign of them.  We started the week with Nthombi feasting on a baby impala quite deep into Marula’s old territory.  As mentioned, Xidulu was also found on the move one afternoon, and it really looks as though he has set himself up as the dominant male in the south-eastern block of our concession.  Ginger and Glen also had a brief sighting of Marula’s daughter to the west of camp one morning, but because she hasn’t been seen much of late, she was a little shy and moved off into the thickets.

We had a wonderful herd of a couple of hundred buffalos spending a few days in the area and it was special to sit in camp one lunchtime and watch the herd stream past.  There was a second, smaller herd that also came into the central parts of the concession and with so much food and water in the area, it would be great if they could stick around. It won’t take long for lions to latch onto their presence which would deter them from making this their home for too long!

The elephants have been loving the water and mud wallows that now abound across the Greater Kruger, and seeing these pachyderms drinking, crossing and swimming in the flowing rivers was really a sight to behold.  It is difficult to believe that just four short weeks ago they were munching on dry branches all day, and now there is a veritable feast of greenery that no doubt makes their lives a great deal easier!

The baby impalas are becoming very abundant now with most females having given birth already, and we also got to see our first baby wildebeest yesterday afternoon.  It’s not only the baby mammals that have emerged, but we are also seeing baby tortoises, and dung beetles going about their business making more babies.  The bush has truly come to life this week and is once more a reminder of why summer really is such a wonderful time to be in the bush!

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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