Trust you all had yourself a wonderful festive season and that the year has got off to a great start for all of you, can’t believe it’s already February! Sitting down to think of the theme for this month’s blog I looked through my pictures for some inspiration. A recurring theme popped right out, which is never the norm and made itself so blatantly obvious it could not be ignored. Now it is so unusual I had to double check it, and with the Chinese New Year coinciding with month end I thought that this year’s Chinese Zodiac may have had an influence. So turning to ever reliable Google I checked it out but apparently 2017 is the year of the Rooster, that’s not it!! Giving it a second chance I thought well actually our January is still last year according to the Chinese New Year, so I checked out 2016, year of the Monkey, hmm…….. could be but still not what I was looking for. Lost for an explanation I’m going to put it down to the wonder of nature and being part of an open system where wildlife is free to come and go as they please, a greatness in itself.
I guess a little history may be in order to bring you up to present day and how we find ourselves in the situation that we are in. I promise to give you the edited version as I don’t want you all asleep at your work stations. Starting in the Timbavati in 2009 our northern traversing was undergoing a pride take over with the Sohobele Pride reduced to three young males and one young female after the Mahlethini’s Males killed off their mothers. So the sightings were never guaranteed as you were never sure who you would find. At the same time two females from the Timbavati Pride arrived with their four cubs, two of who were white. In the south the sightings were more reliable with the Machaton Pride still strong with a number of adult females, their cubs and two pride males. This would soon change as a new pride called the Mafikizolo Pride moved up from the south and into their territory creating the same problem in the south as we had in the north. At a later stage we would have to add the Jacaranda Pride in the North and Mbandi and his respective partners to the mix. We not even going to get started on the Ross or Giraffe Pride as they too also seem to be on the same merry-go-round. With mostly male Lions in the area we had a lot of chasing, fighting and killing and when finally it was only the males left, they departed in search of females! Over the past few years we have seen mostly males enter both North and South territories and although they are great areas holding everything they may need, the one thing they do not have is females and therefore they would never stick around, leaving us struggling to find the king of the jungle. Truth be told it has been fascinating to watch and we should feel privileged to witness this phenomenal development and behaviour in action. It is however very frustrating as you wish to show your guests these magnificent creatures in the wild ruling their kingdoms.
Fast forwarding to present day and the way this year has started it is no surprise as to why I may have thought the Chinese Zodiac may have had an influence, it certainly has been the year of the Lion. Up North they have had a pride known as the Western Pride enter their territory. Meeting little resistance these eight Lions have ventured deep into the area exploring this new found territory. With this Western Pride there has been sightings of two large males also not known to the area and us, but have now been seen on a more regular basis. There has also been a pride of twelve to fourteen that has skirted the northern boundary occasionally slipping in following prey but as quick as they arrive they disappear preferring an area further to the North. In the central section we have the Ross Pride of two females and an injured sub adult male who seem to travel both North and South following Buffalo. The male’s injuries have healed externally but internally we think he has broken his leg and also possibly damaged his pelvis leaving him not able to put weight on his back leg. He is totally reliant on the two females and although we have seen him partake in a kill he does not help in the chase and capture. Things will become difficult for him when the females come into oestrous and seek out other males, as he will not be tolerated and will have to fend for himself. Further south we have six Lions called the Hercules Pride who share their territory with our neighbouring reserve Klaserie, but if there are Buffalo about, so are they. The two Timbavati Males are still regular visitors pushing up from the South East, interestingly enough they were just seen mating with one of the Ross Females. Sticking with the Ross bloodline the two Ross female breakaways can be seen occasionally in our southern traverse but they seem to be spending more of their time in the Klaserie. The Giraffe Pride is also a bit of a scarcity as they undergo change and we see fragments of the pride at different times. Of the two juveniles and five cubs that were in the pride it would appear only one juvenile and three cubs are still alive and then there has been a new addition of three small cubs. The reason for their scarcity must be due to some of the cubs belonging to the old Trilogy Males and the new ones now belonging to the Mapoza Males. To add to the interesting dynamics and deluge of Lions this month the two Ross Males appeared on scene after nearly a year’s absence. If this was not already an overload we have two beautiful males in the East with a female who has given birth to one cub and can be regularly found round her den, she has not showed us her cub but it has been seen by the properties caretaker.
Have we turned the corner? Who knows? Was there a corner to be turned? This is the beauty of it, we don’t know what to expect, nature is dynamic and ever changing and we are privileged to get a front row seat to this magnificent behaviour and pride evolution, whether we have Lions that day or not, it’s all part of the bigger story.
Not that the entire month was only about Lions but I thought the pictures below could tell you the rest of the story.