Wildlife report for June 2011

By Patrick O’Brien on July 6, 2011

At this time of the year there is a different kind of beauty that engulfs us during the dry winter months

The mornings are crisp and the evenings fresh in the bush. On the game drives one can easily spot the long neck of a giraffe peeking out over the top canopy of the thorny Acacia trees while the golden colour of the sun casts a soft yellow sheen of silky light over the bush. Its beauty is very calming and therapeutic for the soul.

It was on one of these beautiful afternoons that Albert my tracker picked up on some very fresh and enticing tracks of a female leopard that had recently walked along the road. We slowly followed her tracks along the windy and beaten bush track when suddenly we were faced with a “roadblock”. A multitude of chunky legs the size of tree trunks caused the earth to shudder and reverberate around us. A herd of more than 40 elephant heaved out of the bush and onto the road in front of our Landover. Everyone on the vehicle was extremely excited by this magnificent surprise, well, almost EVERYONE! Albert my tracker was least impressed as he turned to me in an annoyed state and expressed his aggravation that these giants had destroyed the tracks of the leopard on the road. How was he going to track her now?

These tracks belong to the elegant and beautiful Ntombi leopardess. She is a strikingly beautiful and relaxed female leopard that is just over 5 years old. She is a first time mother and so far has done a fantastic job raising her only cub, a young male that is now 15 months old. The young male is spending a great deal of time in front of the camp in the dry riverbed. This kind of habitat offers protection from the larger predators and his arch rival the spotted hyena. I still believe his mother is supplying him with the majority of his food requirements but it is only a matter of time before his life of independence will start and this young male will be forced to fend for himself. We had a fantastic sighting of both of them on a kill in front of the lodge for three days.
Ntombi leopardess 2011
Our most notorious female leopard sought by many and photographed by thousands, Rockfig Jnr has been infrequently seen this month and there is a good reason for this. I suspect that she gave birth at the end of the month. It will more than likely be at least another eight weeks before she will make any attempt to bring them out from her well hidden and secretive den site. As soon as more information becomes available on her new cubs we will post it on Kings Camp blog.Rockfig leopardess 2011
Our lions sighting were excellent this month. Not only did we see several large kills but it was also significant as the “Kubasa” pride made a return to our area for a few days. Those few guests that were fortunate to see these white lions can count themselves very lucky. The two white lionesses have grown into young and beautiful females nearly doubling in body size since we last saw them. On the afternoon that we viewed them sleeping on the banks of the Nharalumi River, they were rudely awoken only to be chased off by a herd of 50 elephants. The prides movement is very sporadic and unpredictable at the moment making it impossible to determine where they will move to from day to day. Currently it seems that the pride prefer to reside in the North West corner of the neighbouring Klaserie Private Nature Reserve. I also suspect that the constant dominating presence of the Timbavati and the Mahlatini male lion coalitions in our area might be responsible for the prides lengthy absence from Timbavati at this time. However we are ever so hopeful that at even give time the pride can make a return to the Kings Camp.
Young white lioness
The Machaton pride was on a good roll this month and I am very happy to report to you that the nine cubs are all doing well. I have my eye set on the smallest and the only female in the litter. She is small in comparison to her male siblings but this little girl has a strong character and ego and is not afraid to stand up to her brothers. I have watched her carefully and at several sightings she doesn‘t allow her male brothers or the adult lionesses to push her around and bully her. The Timbavati males have shown extreme tolerance of the little ones and allow them to feed with them on the same carcass without showing any indication of aggression or annoyance. The pride received an unexpected bonus in the beginning of the month when a large male giraffe died a natural death in thick mopane bush. The lionesses found the carcass three days later but only after a small clan of hyenas found it first. It was amazing to see them struggle to open the large stomach of the giraffe but once that mission was completed it was a feast for all for several days. Numerous large hyenas would dominate the carcass for a few minutes and would then leave. After the hyenas moved off, a small group of Black-back Jackals would then take control of the carcass with a few hundred vultures joining in for scraps. The hyenas would then return and even though they could not eat anymore, they would purposely chase any smaller predator or scavenger away from the carcass. This lasted two days and on the third day, the Machaton pride with the aid of the Timbavati males took control of the carcass. They fed until they could barley move and looked like they were going too burst. You might think that they are being piggish about feeding so frequently and gorging themselves, but the truth of the matter is that they just don‘t know when their next meal will come. So when an opportunity like this presents itself, of course they are going to maximise this opportunity.

After this intense feeding session they moved away from the remains of the carcass and lay down in the soft riverbed for literally a day and night digesting their large meal. This was until a herd of around three hundred Cape buffalo crossed the path right in front of the pride the following morning as they lay snoozing in the sun. The adult lionesses seized this opportunity with relish and immediately moved into action. The cubs scrambled to cover and concealed themselves in the nearest thicket on the bank of the riverbed watching their moms plan and implement an attack. The cubs remained motionless. As the herd of Cape buffalo crossed the riverbed, their heavy bodies in the soft sand slowed them down as their hooves sunk into the substrate underfoot. At this point a lioness broke cover and forced the herd of buffalo to retreat back in the direction they had come. Instinctively the buffalo herd made a dash for the cover of the dense vegetation lining the banks of the Nhlaralumi River only to be met by a second lioness waiting in ambush for them. The lioness launched down the embankment latching onto the muzzle of a buffalo cow. By holding the animals muzzle shut, she prevented her victim from calling out and bellowing in distress to the rest of the herd for assistance. The herd did not see the cow being taken down and continued to stampede to safety away from the lions. The buffalo was quickly killed as the cubs remained hidden for the time being. Minutes later a soft contact called signalled to the cubs that an approach was safe and they wasted no time to join in on the feast that lasted another three days. A day later one of the Timbavati males joined the pride and not surprisingly took control of the kill immediately. Nevertheless, all members of the pride by this time were well fed.
Feeding starts
Feeding continues
The machattan pride arrives and feeding starts
Cub playing with the tall of the giraffe
Feeding on the buffalo cow that was caught a few days later
Feeding intensify
Large herds of elephants as always are seen during most of the game drives at Kings Camp. The Matriarchal herds have moved away from the open grass plains and spend most of the feeding time on the banks of the Nharalumi River where they can find sufficient food at this time of the year. A few large and impressive bull elephants were also sighted and one specific bull named “Battle” by the Elephant research team in Timbavati graced us with his presence for one week. One day he spent an entire morning feeding right in front of the camp. Majestic and powerful makes him the true King of the bush!
A bull called Battle
Two elephant calves playing
That‘s all for this month dear friends. I hope you enjoyed the game report that I complied as much as did compiling it. This month was a month to remember!

Regards Patrick O’Brien and the Team.


19 thoughts on “Wildlife report for June 2011

  1. Really sounds like you guys had a busy but exciting month. the photo’s that were posted during the month have been awsome!!

    thanks again for the great updates and pics!!

    Hope to see you guys soon.

    Regards to All!!

  2. I almost feel like I am there thanks to your wonderful descriptions of all the prides and elephant activities along with the photos. We are grateful that you and Morné take the time to share with all of us and keep us connected with Kings Camp.

  3.’s like I’m right there! Your detailed description just makes it all come alive….I can just picture the scene! Thanks Patrick for a wonderful report….much appreciated.

    Stay well, stay safe.


    ps…yes, I’ve seen "that look" on Albert’s face….lol.

  4. Patrick, your reports never cease to amaze me. Carry on! Miss you and Albert so much.

    God Bless and Cheers! joy, Camarillo Ca

  5. Dear Patrick, it?s always great to be taken away from everyday life by your reports and pictures for a while… Thanks for that!!! 🙂 As you know me, the elephants on the road would have agitated me a little… 😉 But I am happy, that this little lioness cub is so assertive in her pride and I can?t wait to see Rockfig Junior?s Cub(s)… Miss you all a lot! Please say hello to Daniella, Albert, Tristan… and everybody else at the camp! Take care! Verena

  6. Sounds like an exciting time at King’s Camp and well-written, Patrick. You brought the excitement and wonder of my trip back to life for me!

  7. Hi Patrick,

    I have to echo the sentiments of my fellow bloggers, you have a unique gift with your narrative to provide a mental escape from the "real world" we live in and right back into Kings.

    How I miss it so . . .



  8. Fascinating report! Thank you for sharing. Reading your words almost made us feel that we were there.


    Anne (CD)

  9. Loved reading your report for this month and what a month it was!!. Just wish I could have been there to experience it first hand but your narrative and photos were almost as if I was on safari too. Thanks for keeping us informed on the happenings at Kings Camp. Mv daughter, Krishelle, who was on my last trip to South Africa is thinking of going to Kenya and Tanzania in the fall..we can not get Africa out of our souls…Carolyn

  10. Hi to one and all at Kings Camp AWESOME is all that I can say as always. Your pics are just fantastic and make me wish soooooo much we could be back there. The private camp sounds fantastic – you can never wipe the ancient dust of africa from your boots. Thanks one and all WE WILL be back one day

  11. Patrick,

    Thanks for posting these gifts from the Timbavati. Nancy and I so appreciated your patience and care in sharing this natural treasure with us. Now until we have the opportunity to again join you on a thrilling game drive, we will be content to see this land that you love through your eyes.

  12. Rockfig, you are soooo beautiful!

    Oh! The white lions thrive. This is so wonderful, so special. Maria Khosa would be so thrilled…I hope her spirit knows this. Miss you all, special hugs to you and to Albert.


  13. Patrick,

    What a great blog and a wonderful reminder of our days at Waterbuck ! Slava, Dianna, Elena, Alexei, Ben and I talk the experience often, and we are looking forward to returning soon.


  14. Michael Koster

    Hi Patrick and n Albert,

    We feel honoured to have been on your vehicle for the three sightings of the white Lions. It was funny reading your account of the day and then I realised that it was the drive that we were on.

    take care both of you,

    Michael and Anna Koster

  15. My husband Jerry and I were there in 2005..still the best vacation trip of my life..Tristen was driving then..have bee keeping up ever since we returned home in Santa Barbara, California. I painted several watercolor pictures from our sitings one particularly successful of the old lion who had lost his brother..will send it off again if you would like..Brenda Geneau

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