A DAY IN THE LIFE OF GAME RANGER Chad Cocking

A WEEK OF FEEDING IN PICTURES – 20th September 2019

Greetings folks, and it is good to be back in the saddle and sharing the sightings of Tanda Tula Safari Camp with you all once again. I have returned after a very relaxing two week break and was lucky enough to head straight back out onto game drive upon my return, convinced I was going to be stumbling over cheetahs left, right and centre following all the cheetah updates I had been getting while on leave. And I am happy to announce that my cheetah curse is still firmly in place, and my first week of driving produced exactly zero sightings of these rare visitors to the https://timbavati.co.za/">Timbavati! Maybe next week will be different?  

Maybe next week I might even be able to talk about flowering Knobthorns trees too! Despite all my blogs about the imminent arrival of their powdery yellow flowers last month, they are still yet to flower in this part of the Greater Kruger. Despite that, the flowering Bushwillows did a fantastic job of drawing in a good number of giraffes who shall be well rewarded when the Knobthorns do eventually flower….in 2020 possibly! Despite my lack of flower and cheetah sightings this past week, it has been really great to be welcomed back! 

Our lions were not overly co-operative in the central region, and for the first time in months, the Mayambula Pride spent most of their week outside our concession. The two Mbiri males appear to have spent the whole week in the company of the pride. With many of the water points having dried up in the early-spring heat, some of the only water in this pride’s territory is found to the south of our concession, which is what has kept them out of view. However, when they did return, the sixteen lions provided for the special sight that only sixteen growing lions can. It’s still such a treat to spend time in their presence, even if the cubs are getting more like adult lions with every passing week. The biggest shock for me was seeing the condition of the smaller Mbiri male; it wasn’t just his thin, gaunt appearance, it was the number of wounds that he picked up having clearly come across some neighbouring male lions while off mating with a lioness in the Klaserie. His legs were scratched up, and his face was reminiscent of his appearance last year when he got bitten in the head above his right eye. Fortunately, though, he is a warrior, and will no doubt recover from these superficial wounds that add even more character to his already scarred face.

In the absence of the Mayambula Pride, the two Zebenine lionesses provided for some good viewing, and they were seen on several occasions this week, both looking in reasonably good shape – the little girl is growing quick and the strong bond between mother and daughter can be seen very clearly when they are together. In the west, the two Ross lionesses were also seen quite often, and both looked pregnant. The Giraffe Pride, with the impressive Black Dam male, were also seen the day after they caught and finished two young buffalos. Tracks for two male lions were found, but never led to us to the actual lions to see which boys were brave enough to enter the Mbiri males’ territory.

On the leopard front, we had a fair week of viewing of these spotted cats. Nyeleti was located a couple of times in the east early in the week, and her daughter N’weti also made an appearance. Nthombi’s tracks were seen more often than she was, but one morning she was followed almost all the way to our bush breakfast site, which is not an area that she traditionally ventures towards; she later returned to the Nhlaralumi Riverbed where our trackers relocated her that afternoon. Marula’s son was also found about 100m from the bush breakfast site one warm afternoon, and although he didn’t run away, he is still not nearly as confident as he had become when his mom was still around. On another hot afternoon, whilst talking about her, we bumped into Thumbela resting in the shade of a tree at Machaton Dam. She was watching some nearby steenbuck and came very close to catching one, but it was not to be for the leopard! The Tamboti male leopard closed out the week when he was found with a large warthog kill in the north-eastern part of the reserve.

The wild dogs continue to provide regular viewings for our guests; the pack with their 15 pups are still denning a couple of hundred meters to the west of our concession, but it does mean that the adults can be found hunting within our concession on a daily basis, and we were able to witness them feeding on several kills during the past week. The pups spent one day within our concession before returning to their den. At just three and a half months old, it won’t be long before the pups are fully mobile and start moving with the adults on a full-time basis. The hyenas are having a bitter-sweet time of it; on one hand they are getting plenty of left overs from the wild dogs’ kills, but on the other, they are constantly being attacked and bitten by the wild dogs when they get too close to their meals. I guess they’re right when they say that there is no such thing as a free lunch! 

The larger animals played along nicely this week, with elephants being a daily sight in front of the lodge. Most of the water points around the lodge are now completely dried, so Camp dam is become an increasingly busier spot. The buffalo bulls are also regular visitors to the camp, which is a good thing as the herds were all but absent this past week. We also had a good week of ostrich viewing, with reports that a pair of ostriches has a nest in the area adjacent to the more open woodlands in the east – so we may have some little ostrich chicks running around in the next seven or eight weeks which will be an absolute delight!

That’s it for this week’s update, so until next time!

Cheers ~ Chad

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

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