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

A WEEK OF THE MAYAMBULA PRIDE IN PICTURES – 21st June 2019
Welcome back to another weekly update about the animals that call the central Timbavati their home. It was a week that had a real winter feeling about it – crisp, cold mornings followed by blue skies and mild days before ending off with star-filled skies as the Milky Way looks down on us. It was a week that belonged to one very special family that has taken up residence in this part of the Greater Kruger, and that is none other than the 16-strong members of the Mayambula Pride of lions.  

Whilst we thought their presence in the area during the previous reporting period was good, this week was exceptional. The pride set up base in the central region of our concession and enjoyed no fewer than four kills during the course of the week. It all started last week when all sixteen members (including the two Mbiri males) were found feasting on a large kudu bull only 2kms from Tanda Tula Safari Camp. That afternoon Civilized headed out a little earlier in the afternoon to go and spend time with the pride. As it was early in the afternoon and they all had full bellies, he wasn’t expecting much action - he was wrong. After some time with the lions the four lionesses suddenly got up and stared to the west before slinking off. It wasn’t more than a couple of minutes later that pandemonium erupted as the lionesses brought down an adult zebra about 100m from their kudu kill! Civ and his guests sat and watched in amazement at the power of these lioness as they subdued the 300kg mare.  


This was just the beginning! As all of the lionesses and their ten cubs began to feed on the zebra, the oldest lioness suddenly became quite alert and started calling to the Mbiri males, an odd thing to do for the simple reason that if the male lions were to come to their new kill they would simply commandeer it and leave the lionesses and cubs with nothing. The reason for this behaviour soon became very apparent as three of the young River Pride male lions came charging in towards the Mayambula Pride. Instincts kicked in and whilst one lioness ran off with the ten cubs in tow, the other three lionesses turned to face their aggressors head on, much to the surprise of the River Pride males. The sound of fighting lions drew an instant reaction from the smaller Mbiri male who had happily been sleeping until this point – he came charging in in a flash, and sent the River Pride boys scampering off, but he wasn’t done. The bigger Mbiri male had wandered off to go and drink, but his roars soon started echoing across the bush as he too came charging back. They spent the rest of the afternoon making sure the River Pride males knew that they weren’t welcome, and the pride gathered around to enjoy their zebra feast. 

I had feared that such an altercation may have sent the pride heading back south, but as the week unfolded, this was not the case. The lack of water in the south meant that the pride spent most of their week around one of the central dams and were seen in the area daily. The Mbiri males broke off from the Mayambula pride over the weekend and joined up with the Zebenine Pride. On Wednesday, the males were found resting in the Zebenine Riverbed close to the pride’s previous den site and as the afternoon unfolded with only one of the lionesses (with the sub-adult) pitching up to join the males before moving into the thickets on the eastern bank, the pieces started to fall into place. In the morning, there were tracks of a single lioness heading back into the same area, and so we have concluded that the pregnant lioness has almost certainly given birth in the thickets and, at long last, the next chapter of the Zebenine story has begun. We have closed the area around the suspected den site off to vehicle activity for the foreseeable future (or, knowing my luck, until the lioness pitches up tomorrow and is still pregnant!). We will keep you all updated on any signs or sightings of the cubs, but that will likely only be in August. Forsaking their new paternal duties, the Mbiri males ended up re-joining the Mayambula Pride, and it was to everyone’s benefit as they were found with a large buffalo bull kill! So, our star family ended off the week the same way they started it off, with bellies bulging and loving life at the top of the food chain! 

This doesn’t leave much space for our other animal updates, but if truth be told, they weren’t nearly as cooperative as the lions, so there is sadly not as much to share. The leopards started off the week in a good fashion with N’weti, Marula and Nthombi and her son all showing themselves to begin with, but after that, leopard sightings dropped off. We had some uncharacteristically windy weather for the latter half of the week and my suspicions are that with these ideal hunting conditions, many of the leopards managed to make kills that have kept them from moving around as much as they otherwise would. The good news is, that if this week was quiet for leopards, then next week will have to be busier! 

The wild dog pack made their way into our concession once during the week as they continue to hunt for the alpha female and the new pups denning to the north of our area. 

Other than the predators, we continue to enjoy good viewing of elephants (including the welcome return of Apollo, our one-tusked gentle giant), buffalo bulls, rhino and nice general game around the reserve to complete a well-rounded game viewing experience for all guests visiting Tanda Tula at this time of year. 

Until next time ~ 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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