Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Cat Report: 01 - 07 October 2016

Saturday, 01 October
Another instalment of “Caturday” lay ahead and who better to kick it off than Queen Karula herself, and her beautiful cubs Xongile and Hosana! After a night of rain, the royal family quenched their thirst from nearby puddles of fresh rain water. James began to make his way out of the sighting when all of a sudden Karula and cubs sprinted off into the distance. It wasn’t long before the culprit was found - a large male baboon. Leopards and baboons have a notorious history of being enemies, so as soon as James knew that Karula, Xongile and Hosana were far from the scene of panic, he left them to find some peace and quiet for the morning.

[Screenshot: Lily Brown]


Later that day we embarked on the sunset safari, eager to see if we could keep up the big cat streak for “Caturday”. Sure enough, not only did we maintain the streak, but we did so all within Karula’s royal lineage. Jamie made her way down Gowrie main and into a sighting with Thandi. This leopardess had obviously learned a trick or two from her mother as she sat in the shade with two impala kills. Sadly, despite the buffet on offer, Thandi’s cubs did not come out for their debut on safariLIVE.
[Screenshot: Sue Templeton Deschene]

Sunday, 02 October

The safariLIVE crew woke up to another cloudy day with the promise of rain looming overhead. Brent and Tayla headed out with the hope of finding big cats and Brent was the first to succeed when a casual visit to Buffelshoek Dam resulted in him stumbling upon the Nkuhuma pride. His first glimpse was a lioness, face fresh with blood; and upon closer inspection he found three more lionesses and all eight of the cubs and a fresh buffalo kill. Just as Brent got settled to watch the big cats tuck into their breakfast, the rain began to tumble down. Backup was called in and Tayla took over the sighting, rain covers in place, as Brent set off to follow up on leopard tracks. Before Brent had a chance to track down any spotted cats, the rain picked up its pace and ferocity and the safariLIVE team retreated to The Tent for the last hour of the show.


[Screenshot: Lily Brown]



Sunset Safari opened with the most wonderful of guests - Thandi’s two cubs! Brent opened the show with brief glimpses of their little fuzzy faces. It was a wonderful way to start the sunset safari but we do have to share such precious moments with other guides and guests, so after a few more glimpses of the still-shy cubs, Brent left them to their afternoon antics.


[Screenshot: Lily Brown]


The cat action was not done for the afternoon as Jamie arrived at the pile of tawny lions at Buffelshoek Dam - still only four Nkuhuma ladies, but all of the eight cubs still accounted for. With even more of the kill finished off it was a scene of growling, flat ears and wriggling bums as the cubs fought their way to the end of the meal on offer.

[Screenshot: Lily Brown]




With only the dying embers of the light left of the day, Brent began to make his way back towards DRC. When suddenly a casual visitor strolled down the road alongside the vehicle.... Karula, looking hungry and moving with intention. This was the perfect moment for Brent to switch to infrared mode as he followed the huntress through the block. There were a few tense moments where the possibility of dinner looked promising, but in the end Karula was unsuccessful and we ended the drive with the hope of finding Karula and a kill the next day.


[Screenshot: Lily Brown]



Monday, 03 October

Soon it was time to kick off another week here at Djuma, and we headed straight back to Thandi’s last known location. Unsurprisingly she was still feeding off one of her three prize meals. We waited patiently in the hope that she would call out for the cubs, but despite some soft chuffing, the little ones weren’t brave enough to join mom for breakfast.


[Screenshot: Gabi Hossain]


Sunset safari was an exciting one for the team as it marked the beginning of a week of TV rehearsals, so off we set to deliver up another fantastic safari. Of course we had to do a quick stop to check on Thandi and her three impala kills. All was still well with the royal leopardess, she was looking rather plump after 3 days of feasting on impala but unfortunately still not accompanied by her two cubs.


[Screenshot: Karen Gilliam]

Next it was time to spend some quality moments with the lovely Nkuhuma ladies and their energetic offspring. There were only four Nkuhuma lionesses, all of which spent most of the afternoon in a deep slumber. The eight cubs would rouse themselves from their own slumber every now and then for a brief drink of mom or aunt’s milk, but even that would get tiring quickly and they’d drift back to a dozy delight. The night ended with a sense of expectancy for the morning - a large breeding herd of buffalo were only a few hundred metres from the sleeping cats. With the wind in their favour and darkness falling, we left the Nkuhumas to do what they do best...



[Screenshot: Karen Gilliam]


Tuesday, 04 October
A new dawn broke and Jamie headed off towards the east and sure enough along the way there, she found Thandi once again. This time Thandi had made her way into the boughs of a Marula tree with one of her three impala kills. She started her morning with plenty of enthusiastic snacking, but it wasn’t long before she realised just how full her belly was and chose to take a well deserved rest.


[Screenshot: Lily Brown]


While Jamie sat with Thandi, who drifted in and out of her food coma, Brent headed down to the Djuma Dam after reports of the Nkuhumas being in the area. It wasn’t long before WE noticed some more beach ball bellies! One lioness and most of the eight cubs had definitely had a hearty meal overnight. Accompanying the Nkuhuma family was one lone Birmingham Boy, the male with wound on his muzzle. Upon closer inspection the gaping wound looked to be healing well; the swelling had certainly gone down and there were no signs of maggots. Just as the flat cats got settled in for their morning nap time, a herd of elephants arrived on the scene and were not happy to find tawny cats in their pathway to the Djuma Pan. Despite their full bellies, it didn’t take long for the lions to make a hasty retreat further into the drainage line and out of the matriarch’s way.


[Screenshot: Lily Brown]



Sunset safari began with Brent heading straight back to the drainage line, and the lions were nowhere to be found. Word from our trusty tracker Herbeth confirmed that the same elephant herd had stayed in the area and continued to chase the lions throughout the afternoon. But no big cat can escape Brent’s beady eye and just in time for safari time, we had found the family once again. The scene was peaceful for the remainder of the safari, with the only movement coming from one or two cubs shuffling around for some suckle time; or the occasional snoring from the Birmingham Boy.


[Screenshot: Lily Brown]

Over on Jamie’s vehicle, it looked like we were in for more flat cat scenes as Thandi lay amongst the freshly-sprouted green grass, panting with intent as she tried to digest her 4-day long feast. A large Nyala strolled past the scene and Jamie watched closely, as WE wondered if Thandi would be so bold as to attempt another hunt. Thandi suddenly bolted and it looked as though she was hunting, but this was not the case… A troop of baboons had run in and startled her two hidden cubs. Immediately her motherly instinct kicked in and she ran straight at the alpha male, distracting him from getting any closer to her cubs. In only a few seconds we watched as the baboon chased after Thandi in one direction, while one of her cubs dashed off in the opposite direction. The cub went straight into thick bushes and remained undercover there; Thandi darted into the very highest part of a jackalberry tree and watched as the baboons gave up on the chase. She remained in her lookout position for quite some time, staring fiercely in the direction of her cubs.

[Screenshot: Lily Brown]


As the end of the sunset safari became imminent, Thandi made a stealthy descend out of the tree. Still panting from the high speed chase and adrenalin, she took a brief break at a puddle of water before slowly making her way towards her cubs. We had to end the drive with only hope of good news on the following sunrise safari.


[Screenshot: Lily Brown]


Wednesday, 05 October
Sunrise safari set off with an unexpectedly chilly morning and so it was no surprise that James found the Nkuhumas in a puddle of tawny fur at the Djuma Dam once again. The weather remained cool for the morning, and the cats remained flat.

[Screenshot: Lily Brown]


After spending most of the afternoon with the Nkuhuma pride in their natural state of sleepiness, Jamie got rewarded for her patience with some sunset action as the mothers of the group decided they were tired of offering the milk bar, and led the cubs to the Djuma Dam Cam. For some of the smaller cubs, it was quite a task to clamber up the sandy wall. Eventually everyone made it up and over and and once the puddles were in sight the little lions bolted off excitedly only to spy a new friend - Ronald the Rover. James did a wonderful job of approaching them with the utmost respect, keeping Ronald far enough way not to startle the curious cubs. Some of the adults however could not be kept from their curiosity; especially Amber Eyes and the youngest female who went right up to Ronald for a sniff. Even one of the Birmingham Boys came closer but he was more interested in the young female than Ronald. It wasn’t long before all the moms decided enough curiosity for one day and made their way towards Mvubu road, on the prowl for dinner.


[Screenshot: Lily Brown]


Thursday, 06 October

Following up on updates from the night before, Jamie headed straight for hyena road where the Nkuhumas, their eight cubs and two of the Birmingham Boys were all enjoying a buffalo breakfast. Jamie was treated to the usual scenes - moms munching on meat while cubs played with various parts of the skeleton. But the lions weren’t the only ones on scene, a Side Striped Jackal occasionally popped in looking for his chance to sneak a few scraps, as well as few vultures. The lions were not interested in sharing with these scavenging visitors, at least not until the early morning air started to heat up and sent the cats into their daily digestive slumber. It was only then that the jackal and vulture were successful in stealing scraps and that was how we ended the morning.


[Screenshot: Lily Brown]



The afternoon with the flat cats was a very calm one indeed; the heat of the day had not let up at all and Brent, wearing his best pair of patience pants, sat with the lions as they slept deeply. The only movements were from the cubs but even they restricted themselves to only a few ear flicks and nipple nuzzles before heading back to dreamland.

[Screenshot: Lily Brown]


Friday, 07 October

Another TV rehearsals for the safariLIVE The start of the weekend lead us straight back to the Nkuhumas and their Birmingham Boy counterparts. Despite having shared their most recent kill between 15 hungry lion mouths, these cats had obviously eaten plenty because they spent their morning, once again, in the shade of a drainage line fast asleep. Not even the cubs were interested in playing or begging for milk from their mothers and aunts; so Brent left them to enjoy their day of peace and quiet.

[Screenshot: Karen Gilliam]


Friday’s Sunset Safari was puzzling to begin with after reports of a new Nkuhuma kill came through but no location was known. Jamie found one lioness at the sight of their previous kill, contact calling for cubs and pride members.


[Screenshot: Lily Brown]


It turned out that she was just a confused lioness because all the cubs and pride members she had been calling for, were all sitting fat and happy at the fresh kill. Her journey back to them however was not smooth sailing; she encountered a buffalo who was not content to be stalked and gave the lioness a chase of her own for a short while before they went their separate ways.


[Screenshot: Gabi Hossain]

The afternoon air was filled with constant growls and roars as the five lionesses fought amongst themselves, and a few brave cubs, to get their share of a small buffalo calf carcass. One Birmingham Boy was with the group, but only joined the feeding frenzy after a sufficient afternoon nap.


[Screenshot: Sue Templeton Deschene]

With such a small carcass and many mouths to feed, as well as a number of small groups of rather skinny buffalo wandering around, Jamie left the family of lions at the end of safari feeling confident that the next morning would mean more big cat tracking to find them again.

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