A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER by Chad Cocking

A WEEK OF AUTUMN IN PICTURES - 3 May 2019

Although I have been going on about Autumn arriving, this was the first week of the year when we could really feel it. Heading out in slightly misty mornings with a distinctive crispness in the air that soon gets replaced by a warm, sunny day is exactly why April and May are often favourite times to come and visit the Greater Kruger. And with the game viewing as good as it has been, there is really no excuse not to!  

To begin with, many must be wondering about the Zebenine Pride of lions and what their fate is, but sadly, I am not in a position to give you all of the answers! Another week passed without any sightings of them, although tracks for a lioness and sub-adult were seen back in the central part of their territory for the first time in months. On one of the days I was off, one of the guides from a neighbouring camp claims that he actually picked up tracks for two lionesses and a sub-adult in the same area. Could it possibly be that the mother lioness did not die, and somehow was just separated from her sister and daughter for all this time? I will be honest, I am a little sceptical at this news of the tracks, not because I don’t believe the guide, but more because I don’t want to start thinking that she is alive and the pride is alright, only to then find out that she isn’t. I guess we will just have to wait another week to see if there are any confirmed sightings of our once stable go-to pride of lions.  

The Mayambula Pride were once again scarce this week, with only the odd report of the lionesses to the south of our concession. Fortunately, though, we did get lucky with the lone lioness and her growing cubs in the east on a few occasions as she moved back to the old den site with them. So, another week has come and gone without her reuniting with the pride, but still looks to be in great shape and clearly not feeling the effects of being the sole provider for the cubs! 

The Mbiri males were found early in the week gorging themselves on a wildebeest in the south-west, then following on from that, they moved straight across the concession and unfortunately killed a buffalo about a kilometre north of our boundary. My suspicions are that the River Pride (four females and two males) that had spent three days in the north-eastern part of our concession possibly drew the attention of our dominant males, and on arriving in the north managed to find themselves a very good meal! The Giraffe Pride of lions with the Black Dam male were also seen on two days in the far west of the concession, and luckily, didn’t kill any wild dogs this week! 

Speaking of which, we had two packs of dogs moving through the area again this week. The smaller pack of four made a very brief appearance one great morning (whilst watching impala we heard baboons alarm-calling, so we headed off and found them; then whilst watching them the elephants were trumpeting, so we moved off and listened some more until we heard monkeys shouting; we found some elephants, followed for a bit and found a lioness stalking a hyena, the hyena ran into the elephants, and then whilst watching the elephants again the wild dogs ran past!), but it was the pack of sixteen that really treated us the most, and were around for the latter half of the week in the central and western parts of the concession. Although the alpha female isn’t showing signs of being very pregnant, at this time of year, the hope is always that they hang around long enough to start denning in the area! 

Finishing off with the predators, we had a fairly quiet week on the leopard front; although Nthombi and her daughter made a long-awaited reappearance, it was once more Marula and her cubs that made up the bulk of the sightings with this stunning cat being found on most days. They were seen with two kills over the course of the week; an impala and a steenbuck. The leopards in the east remained frustratingly elusive, as did the male leopard that seems to be very vocal around Tanda Tula Safari Camp these days. 

On the large game front, the week of buffalo viewing did improve with daily sightings of lone bulls around, and then late in the week a herd of 130-odd buffalo came walking into the concession from the south. With water points drying quickly now, the continued hope is that their presence will become a more permanent fixture in the central and eastern regions of the concession. This week again saw the large breeding herd of buffalo active in the west. The elephants were around, but they were not as active as last week, the herds do seem to be covering greater distances on a daily basis as the food resources also slowly die down. Machaton Dam is showing signs that it could be an elephant hotspot over the coming months with several herds seen drinking there with some regularity. 

That’s it once again. Please be sure to check back next week for further news and updates from the heart of big game country here in the Timbavati

Until next time! Cheers ~ Chad 

By courtesy of the Tanda Tula Safari Camphttp://www.tandatula.com/blog/

You can also follow Chad on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chadcocking

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