A WEEK OF DRAMA– 12th July 2019

Welcome back to another instalment of a “Week in Pictures” at Tanda Tula Safari Camp. While we have had some heart ache over the last week due to the unfortunate loss of one of the Zebenine lionesses during an altercation with the Mayambula Pride (last weeks blog post), the Timbavati continues to provide incredible game viewing! The fantastic rains that summer brought have set the Greater Kruger on track for a good winter with the grass, still thick and full on nutrients. The trees are still holding massive amounts of foliage and those that aren’t have an ample bed of nutrients right beneath them which means the wildlife sightings have been superb!  

Immense herds of elephants and buffalo have been taking full advantage of an environment that is flourishing with good vegetation which in turn, has led to some incredible sightings of these two titan species. This is in stark contrast to previous years where the lack of rain didn’t produce the same amount of food. I remember vividly, the anguish that animals suffered, but none more so than the buffalo population which saw massive declines. The lack of nutrition led to weakness and sadly made these large bovines into easy targets for the predators of the area. This year, however, is different. The buffalo herds are growing quickly and there are many new, fluffy calves around. Seeing a large herd of African buffalo is a truly magnificent, noisy and somewhat smelly affair. We took every chance we got to spend time with them; from evening drink stops listening to the herds moving around us in the darkness, to mud baths in the morning heat, and the excitement of hundreds of buffalo approaching water for the first drink of the day. It’s been great to witness the recovery of this species.  

As is tradition, the elephant herds of the Greater Kruger have moved back north and west in search of winter feeding and breeding grounds. Many of them settling in for the cold months around Tanda Tula Safari Camp. The sounds from these great mammals can be heard just about every night as they move around the area in their never-ending quest for sustenance. Then every once in a while, the loud rumbling and trumpeting of an altercation between members of the population rings out. 

The most memorable sighting of the week though, was the death of a large male giraffe which brought many predators to enjoy the plentiful bounty. There were hundreds of vultures, an entire clan of hyena and ultimately a pride of sixteen lions. The drama started with us spotting vultures swooping in from far and wide on investigation we discovered a giraffe carcass which had most likely died from natural causes or even a repercussion of fighting. The vultures lacked the means to open a carcass of this magnitude and so they had to wait patiently for something larger to come along and perform the task. CUE THE HYENAS! At the height of it all there must have been close to thirty hyena gorging, laughing, fighting and chasing each other around the area in what can only be described as nature’s greatest comedy. Every now and then the vultures would try to get through the ranks of hyena, in search of a morsel of food, only to be chased off. Time and time again they would try, some making off with nothing and some making off with a delicious meal. The drama of it all was incredible. 

The next morning, all around the dead giraffe, lay some heavily overweight hyena struggling to keep their eyes open while others continued feeding on the carcass. All the while, the vultures remained patiently on the side knowing that their time would come. By night fall only ten or so hyena remained, the others having moved off to look for a new meal or perhaps lying in a food coma in the surrounding area. During the night things changed, we could vaguely hear the drama unfolding in the distance, with one unmistakable sound - the deep, guttural roar of a lion. The Mbiri males had arrived and they hadn’t come alone either - with them was the entire Mayambula Pride. And so, there we were the next morning watching sixteen lions, two males, four females and ten fat cubs tucking into the remains of the giraffe carcass. I have no idea what really happened that night, but from previous experiences I would guess that the Mbiri males charged in, dispersing the hyenas in a flurry of laughs and dust clouds into the night, and took over what remained. 

Sadly, I do not have an update on the remaining Zebenine lioness along with her sub-adult daughter. The pair have not been seen in the last few days and it would seem that the Mayambula Pride has moved solidly into their territory claiming it as their own. 

I do, however, have some updates on some of the other cats in the area. Nyaleti leopardess was found on a kill near camp, but what was interesting is that her sub-adult daughter was not with her. It is natural that growing leopards become more and more independent and so remove themselves from their mothers’ lives - it seems this time is starting to come. Marula leopardess was also spotted on the hunt until she gave up and decided to take it easy in the shade of the trees along the banks of the Nhlaralumi River. I can happily report though, that her two cubs are healthy and doing well. 

A whirlwind week for sure and one I will not forget soon.  

Until next time, happy snapping.

Luke Street

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

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