Wildlife Report August 2010

By Patrick O’Brien on September 14, 2010

Terrific blue skies and warm days dominated the climatic conditions during the month of August.

The scene is set for spring, which is now on our doorstep. It is wonderful time to be in the bush and the wildlife sightings were fantastic especially the leopard sightings. I could not help myself but to take thousands of images of theses beautiful cats, which I will share with you during this report.

The lion sightings have taken a bit of a decline now that the Kubasa pride has moved further to the west to eliminate contact with 3 strong Ghlathini males from the north. This move created a temporary neutral zone, which allowed other lions to move into this vacant piece of land.

A new pride from the west in the Klaserie known as the Ross pride has been seen several times in near vicinity of the Camp. This is a large pride numbering more than 15 lions in this dynamic team. It includes a total of 9 adult females and 2 large males and the rest are sub-adults.

With this concise prologue I bring to you the wildlife report.

I was lucky enough to capture this rare image of an adult male Serval cat during one of my drives. The first I have taken ever in my career as a wildlife guide.
The Serval Leptailurus servall. by Patrick O'Brien
The Serval Leptailurus servall, is a medium-sized African wild cat. Modern DNA analysis indicates that servals maintain their own unique lineage descending from the same Felid ancestor as the lion, and though the serval shares common traits with the cheetah, it is the cheetah, which is thought to have descended from ancient servals.

Servals have the longest legs of any cat, relative to their body size. Most of this increase in length is due to the greatly elongated metatarsal bones in the feet. The toes are also elongated, and unusually mobile, helping the animal to capture partially concealed prey. Another distinctive feature of the serval is the presence of large ears indicating a particularly acute sense of hearing.

Servals are nocturnal, and so hunt mostly at night. Although the serval is specialized for catching rodents, it is an opportunistic predator whose diet also includes birds, hares, and reptiles. As part of its adaptations for hunting in the savannas, the serval boasts long legs

For jumping, which also help it achieve a top speed of 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph). The long legs and neck allow the serval to see over tall grasses, while its ears are used to detect prey, even those burrowing underground.

The Serval’s pounce is a distinctive and precise vertical hop, which may be an adaptation for capturing flushed birds. They are able to leap up to 3.6 meters (12 ft) horizontally from a stationary position, landing precisely on target with sufficient force to stun or kill their prey upon impact. The serval is an efficient killer, catching prey on an average of 50% of attempts (with a 67% success rate at night), compared to around one in ten attempts for most species of cat.

This month most of the cat sightings were focused on the leopards. The bush is rather sparse in vegetation due to the dry season making leopards sightings very good at the moment.
Rockfigs little male cub that didn't make it. by Patrick O'Brien
Rockfig jnr and her one surviving female cub are doing very well. Unfortunately her son has not been seen for more than a month now and we are now convinced that he has probably died. Rockfig jnr and her cubs had an unfortunate exchange with the Machattan lion pride one night. One of the Rangers witnessed 2 of the 3 leopards being chased by the lionesses into a huge Acacia tree. We did not physically see the male cub being caught or killed by the lions but we suspect the worst as he was missing the next morning.

He was a very adventurous little guy and was not afraid to wander off miles away from his mom and sister at times.

This is not the first time that the Machattan pride and Rockfig jnr have crossed the same path. In fact they have had several dealings with each other that go back as far as 2004. Interestingly though, more than a year ago Rockfig jnr killed one the Machattan lionesses… cubs. There is a constant battle for survival and dominance in the African bush between the large predators.

Fortunately, the little female cub has survived and is doing very well. She is growing steadily in size and confidence and has adopted her mother‘s safe approach to life. She tends to stay put when she is left on her own for a few days by mom while she is out hunting.

I was fortunate to capture this incredible set of images the cub playing.
Surviving cub playing by Patrick O'Brien
Surviving cub playing by Patrick O'Brien
Surviving cub playing by Patrick O'Brien
Ntombi and her now confirmed male cub were sighted around the camp regularly. She is doing a great job raising her first offspring and providing regular kills for her little one.
Nthombi on the hunt by Patrick O'Brien
Both of them were seen for 10 successive days in and round the camp. During lunch one afternoon, one of our guests called Warren to tell him that there was a leopard and cub at the waterhole drinking. As was expected, it was Ntombi and junior quenching their first She had killed an impala the night before and had stashed the carcass in the riverbed right in front of the camp. The kill lasted her and the cub 3 days of feasting. Two days later she caught a Steenbuck, which after killing left the carcass right out in the open for the entire day only to return at sunset to begin feeding. I thought that was strange as leopards immediately conceal their prey after a successful hunt. I think she might have been disturbed by something just after she made the kill. What is amazing is that not a single vulture saw the carcass from the sky the entire day. Normally other opportunist feeders in the bush quickly snatch any meat that is left abandoned. Nonetheless it had a good ending and Ntombi later returned to the carcass and secured it below a tree and fed from the carcass for 2 days.

This is a series of images of the cub stalking mom.
Step 1
Step 2
Step 3

<%LightBox2(8/|Mother love by Patrick O’Brien|Photo Group 1)%>

The Ross pride
This is one seriously large pride numbering 15 pride members. They are truly a dynamic team and they briefly blessed us with there presence during the month. Although we don‘t get to see them daily it is nonetheless a great feeling to have 15 lions move around your game drive vehicle. The pride consists of 9 adult females 4 sub-adults and 2 very impressive males. The 2 males reminded me of the notorious Shobele males that you may remember roamed these parts a few years back. I managed to capture two good images of both males and one can clearly tell from the large manes that both males are fully mature and in their prime. I wonder what the out come would be if they had a territorial exchange with our own Timbavati males. I would think that the Ross males might just win a battle of any kind at the moment. Albert tracked the pride one morning on foot and later told me that he had found an area where the pride had attempted to kill an old male buffalo during the night. From the evidence of tracks, blood and scuff marks in the sand, Albert concluded that the pride had pinned down the old buffalo in the soft river sand and seriously attacked and attempted to kill the buffalo. The buffalo must have somehow escaped this ordeal, as there was no evidence of a dead buffalo anywhere in the vicinity.
Dark mane Ross pride male by Patrick O'Brien
The second male of the Ross pride by Patrick O'Brien
That‘s all for this month dear friends.

Take care and kind regards from the Kings Camp Rangers and Trackers

Report by Patrick O‘Brien Head Guide Kings Camp

17 thoughts on “Wildlife Report August 2010

  1. Patrick….Always love your pictures but, this time, you outdid yourself on the narrative!! I have very fond memories of my time spent on safari with you as our guide and Albert as our tracker! Wish I were there right now!!

    Take care and stay in good health!

    Chris from California

  2. Ditto per Chris. Miss ya both and, of course, KC and the Timbivati! Our best to you and to Albert. Hugs and best wishes! Joy

    PS Anything on the white lion cubs??????

    PSS That pic of Ntombi is awesome, what a profile!!!! Did you get your camera back?????

    …and, the Ross pride male sure reminds me of the old Shobele male..what beautiful coloring!

  3. Nice one Patrick! love the serval sighting! only ever photographed those amazing cats on 2 occasions, but prefer your shot! and great to have two leopardesses and cubs around…some nice pics of both lots!

    Hope the Ross Pride continues to hang around – i’d love to see them at full strength!

    Joy, the white lions did return on the weekend in the very north, killed a zebra and slowly made their way back north out of the timbavati…but they are apparently all in really good shape and staying out of trouble, although i heard the Mahlathini male’s were seen in the same area as them on one of the days, and moving in their direction…those boys are causing headaches!

  4. Great pictures Patrick and as you know we had the enormous pleasure of being with you when we saw the Serval and Ntombi being stalked by her cub. We have some images of her in the tree and being stalked which are identical to yours (well,ok, maybe a slight quality issue!), what a great time we had. I can recommend the wildlife viewing and the Rangers at Kings Camp without hesitation. Keep up the good work and love to everybody as usual.

  5. Thank you Patrick for the fabulous pics and the detailed report…makes me feel as though I’m there! (wishful thinking)

    Great job….keep up the great work…much appreciated.

    Stay safe, stay well.

    Kindest regards,


  6. Howzit Patrick?

    Lekker on the photo of the serval. I was fortunate on one occasion to photograph one . . . very rare indeed! You must have been thrilled. I hope he stays in the area and provides you with additional opportunities.

    The photos of Ntombi and Rockfig are wonderful!

    John and I are targeting a triumphant return in Aug. ‘011.



  7. Wonderful.We stayed at KC in April 2009 and hope to be back someday .No lions that week : we must return

    Thank you so much again

    Justin and Micheline

  8. Fab photos Patrick. It’s always great to get the monthly reports. I so look forward to seeing the awesome photos.

    Greetings from us to all at Kings Camp.

    Maria and Niall


  9. Hey Patrick

    The leopard cub images are superb – well done!

    Looking forward to getting out to Kings again to celebrate 25 years married – will let you know when.

    All the best to you, Morné and the gang!




  10. Patrick thank you for once again bringing your magnificient home and incredible animals to life for us all the leopard cub shots are just gorgeous and the incredible information with the report just fantastic. Wish we were there. Take care and all the best to you and all at Kings Camp.

  11. I love seeing the beautiful animals. I am glad when they survive. Hope you have a continuous good season. Anne

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