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

A week of full bellies in pictures – 25th October 2019

It’s clear that Mother Nature clearly reads my blogs (well, at least the opening paragraphs)! Following last week’s “Week of waiting for summer”post, she did her best to make us feel like we were no longer waiting for it!

Monday’s temperature soared to a very toasty 43 degrees, but this heat was broken by the most welcomed thunderstorm which almost instantly dropped the temperatures down, and thankfully they remained so for a few days.  The week ended with some more rain scattered sporadically across the Timbavati.Although these rains are unlikely to kick start the changes, we are hoping that they are a sign of things to come.  Once more, I was only on drive for a shortened period this past week, but bearing in mind it was also just a three-day driving stint, you will see that the guests at Tanda Tula Safari Camphave once more been treated to some really good big cat activity.

The highlight of the week for me was no doubt the return of the Mayambula Pride on my very last drive – quite typical that as I am preparing to go on leave, the pride makes a reappearance.  The sighting was also a good one – all sixteen pride members, including the two Mbiri males, were found feasting on a wildebeest kill.  Based on the aggression and the way in which all pride members were trying to get their share, we can only imagine that they had caught it relatively recently.  The pride went back south after finishing off the feast, but at least some members of the pride did make a return to the concession later in the week.

I fully expect that they will be a common sight over the coming two weeks whilst I am sitting in the city!  It was in fact a week dominated by lion highlights; the two Zebenine lionesses provided for the sighting of the week after we located them walking around on a warm afternoon.  The mother spotted something in the distance and began stalking; as she was moving into an area that might have resulted in them disappearing, I told Civilized and his guests they should come take over and I would move off.  I was understandably a tad envious when I heard a few minutes later that they had watched the two lionesses stalk and successfully catch a massive male warthog in front of them!  Most pleasingly, it was actually the young daughter (now 15 months old) that caught the warthog, with mom coming rushing in to immobilise it!  She is quickly growing into a young lioness.  The two feasted well until the next day, when they plodded off with fat bellies.

The five members of the River Pride spent the entire week within our concession and really appear to have made this their temporary home.  As it stands, they have managed to avoid the Zebenine lionesses, but there are large sections of overlap between their areas at the moment which is not the best news for the Zebenine Pride.  A pride of five males and one female lioness that has been seen in the Klaseriefor the past year eventually made a move into the Timbavatiand were found with two giraffe kills in the west in the latter part of the week, concluding a week of great lion viewing.

Despite the rise in lion sightings, the leopard sightings remained strong.  Marula’s son was once more seen a couple of times walking around his mom’s old territory.  Nyeleti continued her push into this area during the week and was found at a couple of her childhood haunts, including Marco’s Dam, where she hasn’t been seen for years.  The next day she managed to regain possession of her impala kill after a hyena had stolen it, and once it was safely stashed up a large tree, she fed in peace for a couple of days.

Nthombi and Hlangana were also seen together with a steenbuck kill that understandably didn’t last too long (interestingly Nthombi had eaten her share before she went to fetch Hlangana this time, she may be becoming wise to the fact that he no longer shares the kills with her!).  It was also great to hear that the guides saw Thumbela with a steenbuck kill in the east as the week drew to a close.

There were a couple of herds of buffalo that were making use of the area this past week, the northern herd drew the attention of the River Pride, but it doesn’t appear as though the lions had any success in acquiring a meal from the herd.  Elephants continued to frequent the few remaining waterholes this week, but were found in quite large numbers across the reserve this week.

We had a surprise visit from the enormous Apollo this week, but I didn’t recognise him at first, because sadly, he has gone and broken his last remaining tusk!  It is difficult to think that just over a year ago he was one of the largest tusked elephants in the Greater Kruger,and now he is effectively just a massive, tusk-less bull.  He is looking old, and I cannot imagine that this gentle giant has many more years left in him.

Now, as much as Mother Nature might have read my opening paragraphs about rain, my constant hinting at hoping to see cheetahs was completely disregarded. However, in the latter half of the week, the guides were treated to a sighting of a different pack of wild dogs.  It was difficult to get a count, but it sounds like there were somewhere in the region of 34-38 members in the pack, which included 19-odd pups.  This is a particularly large pack that has moved into the western parts of our concession, and for our guests’ sake, I do hope that the stay around for a little longer…although I suspect the impalas will be less enthused about such a wish!

I am away for the next two weeks, but will catch up again with the happenings of the animals upon my return.

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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