The term ‘surreal’ was fitting for this month’s sightings, and it describes countless experiences that will be cherished forever. The winter has been filled with excitement, not only for the relief of cooler temperatures from the summer, but the first sight of 11 wild dog puppies had everyone beaming with enjoyment. In addition we have been eagerly awaiting the introduction of the new litter from the Mhangene lionesses. Field Guide, Joffers McCormick, had a fortunate encounter with one of the lionesses as she moved her cubs into the Sand River – it was a sighting that will remain very high on most lists of memorable occasions of guiding in the bush. We have had some brief long distance viewing of the cubs since that sighting. We look forward to the new pride members settling down in the area. Interesting though that one of younger lionesses from their previous litter has been ‘adopted’ and remained with the three remaining adult Mhangene lionesses. Time will tell how long the young lioness will be tolerated with the new cubs.
Here’s a highlights package of the month’s sightings:
Lions: The sub-adult Mhangene pride members continue to roam large areas of the Sabi Sand and most recently have been sighted on a few occasions feeding on various carcasses. Current sightings have only reported six young males and two females. As these lions continue to grow and fend for the fittest to survive, they will certainly fragment due to the higher number of males to females. The males being larger in size will overpower the females when feeding on smaller prey.
Leopards: The Schotia female and her two cubs have continued to dominate the sightings and it has become more evident that she has settled right into her mother’s territory (Hlab’Nkunzi). She continues to prove her success in hunting, with three different carcasses reported within a five-day span of each other. There have been occasions where she has lost the carcass due to the high concentrations of hyenas in the area. A clear error of judgment unbeknown to the Schotia female was that she successfully hoisted an impala carcass right above an active hyena den-site. This was evident as several hyenas circled the hoisted carcass waiting for scraps to fall from their feeding on the meat. Smaller hyena cubs appeared and whilst viewing the leopards feeding, several more hyena cubs appeared from the den-site and were blasé about the leopards, so much so that they continued to suckle on the mothers as if nothing had changed. It was quite the sight.
Elephants: Elephants have been moving through the area in some large numbers. On average most herds in the area are approximately 20 individuals, however during the last week a few sightings have exceeded this with almost doubling in size and in some rare occurrences along the river with herds being reported as large as 100.
Buffalo: Buffalo bull groups and single bulls have been encountered mostly along the Sand River. Larger herds continue to stay predominantly further in the south-eastern regions.