May 2021

Singita Sabi Sand: May 2021

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Singita Sabi Sand: May 2021

The cycle of nature can be that of intense emotion. Birth bursts with curiosity and innocence, but with every beginning there must always be an end and the most powerful and ultimate finale is death. May is a month of change. Leaves begin to yellow and descend from their canopy coverings. Patches of land emerge through the jigsaw of plant growth, as the green jacket of summer falls away to expose the dry dull landscape of winter. Mirroring the shifting landscape, this month brought another big change within our resident lion pride. Towards the beginning of the month, the dramatic discovery of the deceased Othawa male lion was found. Advancing too far into forbidden territory, it appears that his confident adventure into new land was met with a fatal ending. Death symbolises the end and although this was the end of the Othawa male’s saga, his legacy continues in the amazing discovery of seven new lion cubs introduced into the Mhangeni Pride.

Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for May:

Lions

  • At the beginning of May, the Othawa male ventured east of Singita towards Mala Mala. For an adult male, it’s common to expand territory range, testing new areas for potential growth and eyeing out competitors. Unfortunately though, for the six-year-old male, this adventure was a fatal one. One of our guides found the carcass of an adult lion close to the boundary to Mala Mala and with dental examination it has been confirmed that the carcass belongs to the Othawa male. Presumably this male ran into the two Birmingham males (these males were last seen around the same area). Although the latter are much older than the Othawa male, they hold much more experience and this potentially cost the Othawa male his life. 
  • The Mhangeni Pride are unaware of the fate of their dominant male figure – the Othawa male, and have been seen frequently throughout the central and southern regions of the reserve. On one misty May morning, the pride were seen stalking buffalo and successfully brought down a fully grown buffalo bull. A few hours later, upon revisiting the scene something incredible happened. Not only were the six lionesses and 10-month-old cub present, but also seven new cubs! Four cubs are aged about three months old, and three cubs are about two months old. We knew of four cubs from last month but since the sighting on 8 April, these haven’t been seen since. With lionesses typically hiding newborn cubs away until about six weeks old, it’s unsurprising that these youngsters haven’t yet made their debut. We are so excited to follow their progress and we hope they survive! (Photograph by Nick Du Plessis)
  • The Othawa Break-away Pride, comprising of three sub-adult males and one female have been seen on a number of occasions this month. One particularly exciting sighting started with following their movements through the central/western section, when they suddenly bumped into the Tamba male leopard. The leopard had made an impala kill and had hoisted it into a marula tree but upon seeing the lions, he sprinted away, leaving the kill to the lions to stare at. Although lions don’t typically climb trees to retrieve carcasses, when a free meal is available why not give it a go? It was with complete astonishment that with some determination and hard work, the impala kill was retrieved from the branches of the marula tree and consumed by the pride members. 
  • The Plains Camp males (two males) made an appearance on our property for the first time. They were seen in the very far north.

Elephants

  • With mud wallows drying up and water sources becoming more and more limited, elephants have been seen more frequently along the Sand River. Herds congregate at exclusive meeting points, such as Castleton Dam and other larger waterholes. 

Wild dogs

  • An amazing month of wild dog viewing with a couple of different packs having been seen on the reserve. A particularly exciting sighting was viewed in the Sand River, where a pack of wild dogs chased the Nkuwa female leopard into a river bushwillow tree. The dogs persisted to jump up around the branches for several minutes before leaving her and heading off to hunt. 

Leopards

  • The Thamba male leopard has continued to deliver incredible sightings this month. We’ve watched him patrol and scent mark into areas that we’ve never seen him in before. It’s clear that he is pushing his boundaries and may even take over more and more of the Nyeleti male’s territory. Photograph by Gareth Poole.
  • The Misava male has been viewed regularly this month, making a few successful kills. On one occasion, this male killed and hoisted an impala ewe in a marula tree to the southern end of the Singita airstrip. The commotion drew the attention of several leopards in the vicinity and the Nyeleti male shortly appeared and stole the young leopard’s kill, chasing him off the scene… but this was not the end. Minutes later, after the dominant male started feeding, another leopard arrived - the Thamba male leopard. He is a large male with a big dewlap and easily recognised with his pink nose and cut right ear. The Nyeleti male took one look at the new arrival and descended the tree; swiftly moving away and submitting to the larger male. A very interesting display of governance. The Nyeleti male leopard used to frequent this part, however in his older age it’s clear that his territory is shifting, becoming smaller and smaller. 
  • Sightings of the Schotia female have dropped this month compared to April. She is spending less and less time with her son and potentially could be ready to mate again.
  • Nearing independency, the Schotia young male leopard continues to been seen more and more on his own. He’s been viewed on the northern bank alone, exploring, as well as to the west of the lodges. In the next few months we expect he will become completely independent from his mother and with this in mind, as a tracker and guiding team, we’ve decided to call him the Kangela male meaning ‘to look at you with curious eyes’ in Zulu. We feel this is a very fitting name given his inquisitive and confident nature. 
  • The Thamba male leopard has continued to deliver incredible sightings this month. We’ve watched him patrol and scent mark into areas that we’ve never seen him in before. It’s clear that he is pushing his boundaries and may even take over more and more of the Nyeleti males territory. 

Cheetahs

  • There have been several sightings of a male cheetah across our property, as well as a female with her two sub-adult sons. As the yellowing grass begins to die, we look forward to increased sightings throughout the winter. 

 Pangolin

  • We have been totally spoilt with two pangolin sightings this month, a first for many and an incredible species to find.  

Photograph by Joffers Mc Cormick.

Bird List

The bird list for May includes four new bird species, bringing our yearly total to 275 so far. Special bird species include: Cape vulture

Photographs by Gareth Poole.

Jenny Hishin
By Jenny Hishin
Author / Guest Guide