April is always one of the most enjoyable months of the year to be in the bush.
With the onset of autumn the animals and their behaviour changes somewhat. The Pale-artic and Intra Africa migrant birds are now on their way to a more suitable warmer environment further North in Africa and even as far as Europe . The colours of the bush will change and it also spells the end of the wet season. Dryer conditions will now prevail for the next few months until October when the summer rains make a return.
We have had a very good wet season and the condition of bushveld is good. This should hold us in good steed for the dry winter months. The animals will have an abundance of water and I suspect that the number of buffalos herd sighting will be high.
At the moment it appears to me that both the adult lioness are trying their best to keep the four cubs out of harms way. Dominant male lions will generally kill lion cubs if they are unrelated and as far as I know the Kubasa prides four cubs are definitely not related to the northern or southern dominant male lions of the area. It is going to be a risky few months for this pride if they continue to move too far north or south. I suspect they will have to strike a good balance of remaining as much as they can in the center of the area.
What is also interesting to note is that both the adult lionesses are enormous and larger than the average female. They are much bigger than any other female lion in our area of Timbavati. I have a very good idea to believe that both these females belong to a pride previously known to us a few years ago as the Jacaranda/Timbavati Pride. This pride occupied the northern sector of the Timbavati a number of years back and specialized in killing giraffes. In one year I recorded 19 giraffe kills in 12 months. They were at that time one the most formidable prides in Timbavati.
One of the more interesting kills this month was when the White pride took down a female buffalo late one afternoon. Feeding was interrupted when the nomadic three young Shobele males arrived on the scene. Starving and keen to help themselves to a free meal they approached the carcass very carefully. I can only imagine that they must have been knocked around a few times before they were allowed to feed. This only after the lioness and the cubs had had their fill first.
Another fantastic sighting that I personally witnessed was when Machattan pride caught a young impala just after I had seen mating lions earlier during the drive. After seeing the mating lions we headed to the south of the reserve where the Machattan lionesses were found.
As we arrived I noticed that the lionesses were walking 30 meters apart from each other in same direction with their heads held low. Their intensive focus made me realize that they were hunting something. One lioness moved sharply to the right in a circle around her prey, which was standing behind thick bush. I decided to stay with the older more experienced lioness of the pride. She intern lay flat and motionless on the ground.
Then with an explosive charge, the lioness moved in chasing a herd of impala straight towards the second lioness concealed in tall grass waiting in ambush. The impala ran straight into the waiting feline and like a circus acrobat, the lioness launched up into the air swatting the impala as it attempted to leap over the cat. She did a 360-degree turn in a second. After she had caught the impala, her sister rushed in to join in on the success. One could feel the tension between the lionesses as they ripped the impala while each female claimed her part of the catch.
Sightings have increased to a record high. At times it can be difficult to decide to which sighting to respond to. One afternoon we had 4 different sightings to choose from.
Rockfig jnr leopardess and her cubs are doing very well. Mom had no difficulty providing for her litter of two. The cubs are incredibly relaxed around the vehicles. They play hunt around the vehicle chasing birds and reptiles.
A young new male leopard has made an appearance recently. Looking at the size of this young male and his relatively small secondary canines, I would estimate him to be between 14-16 months old. I am not sure who he is related too but his relaxed behaviour is unusual for a leopard in the southern part of the reserve. All relaxed leopards tend to come from the northern and middle section of our traversing not the south.
I took these images of this male posing on a termite mound and no, he is definitely not showing any aggression although it appears to be the case. In fact he was only yawning.
On a delightful note, Ntombi leopardess is a first time mother. It was her birthday last month and she is now 4 years old. She has given birth to two cubs in the beginning on the month of March. This wonderful news was conveyed to me after one of the guides from the north informed me about the surprise sighting. I was so pleased to receive the news. I have followed this little leopardess‘s life since the start. She is an amazing animal and had already been viewed by thousands. I have been fortune to see the new little ones and they are about 3 weeks old. They are very small and I had to wait patiently for more than an hour to see them emerge from the rocky outcrop where they are being kept by mom. I kept my distance and after viewing them for a few minutes I decided to leave this rare and wonderful sighting.
From all the rangers and trackers of Kings Camp.
Report by Patrick O‘Brien