Friday, 11 November 2016

The Cat Report 4 - 11 Nov

Friday the 4th of November

With no big cat sightings on the sunrise safari, it was down to Tayla to ensure WE didn’t break our 55-day big cat streak! Luckily, she managed to find the Nkuhuma pride feasting on yet another unfortunate buffalo on Arathusa. WE watched as one of the lionesses and a few cubs nibbled away on their latest conquest. Eventually, Tayla had to leave the sighting due to its high popularity, and WE sought out other fascinating creatures of the bush.

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(Nkuhuma lioness feeding on buffalo carcass, Screenshot Credit: Ravi Teja, safariLIVE, Arathusa)

Saturday the 5th of November

After a brief yet successful foray to the west the Nkuhuma pride returned to their core territory on Djuma. WE found them as the cloudy day began to break enjoying a morning drink at the Vuyatela dam. This time they were accompanied by the particularly grumpy Tinyo. It definitely seemed like he had woken up on the wrong side of the marula this morning as he growled and fought with any cub or lioness that came too close. Eventually the lean tawny cats made their way into the shadiest and coolest drainage line they could find and slept soundly as the sun made it’s never changing passage from east to west. Later that afternoon, the big cats were found sleeping soundly on the side of the road in some cool dung-y mud. There they remained for the afternoon and well into the evening. Tinyo’s earlier aggression was then explained as he possessively followed and mated with Amber Eyes. The cubs playfully attacked all manner of sticks, dung piles and of course, each other. Eventually the sighting became too dark to stay and WE moved on.

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(Nkuhuma lioness Amber Eyes, accompanied by a grumpy Tinyo and a curious cub, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE,, Djuma)

The southern side of the reserve held two surprises for the safariLIVE crew. The first being an extremely brief glimpse of Queen Karula. James managed to locate the sneaky leopardess by the panicked alarms of a troop of vervet monkeys calling out angrily over the bushveld. James drove in the direction of their disdainful glares and soon caught a glimpse of Karula as she crossed our southern boundary and disappeared out of sight.

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(Karula, the Queen of Djuma casually sneaking across the southern boundary, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen‎, safariLIVE, Djuma)

The second surprise came in the form of one of the Styx lionesses accompanied by an amorous Mfumo. The lions were found lying just across the southern boundary but within full sight. They mated once and resumed their horizontal sleeping stances. It seems the mange outbreak among the Styx lionesses is not going away anytime soon. The lioness looked irritable, grey patches of skin were visible through her thinning tawny fur on both her legs and face. Yet seeing the pride in the throws of passion with the Birmingham males is a good indication that a few new cubs are on their way!

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(Styx lioness accompanied by Mfumo, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossian, safariLIVE, Djuma)

Sunday the 6th of November

Roars of the Nkuhuma pride greeted the safariLIVE crew as they woke bright and early in the inky darkness of the pre-dawn light. All five lionesses and their quickly growing cubs were found relaxing near the refreshing water of the Vuyatela dam. After a quick drink the cats ascended the dam wall and headed over into the relieving shade of the drainage line. The cubs quickly found an old water pipe, no doubt pulled from the ground by a herd of elephants and discarded after finding out that water doesn’t flow through broken pipes. The cubs chewed the pipe for a short time before they became bored. Soon the muscular, tawny cats made their way deep into the drainage and out of sight. Later that afternoon WE found them once again but once the sun had set the cats were up, they meandered their way slowly from the thicket and set about their evening business. WE didn’t spend too much time with them as the cubs are still too young to light at night.

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(Nkuhuma lioness is mobbed by the cubs, Screenshot Credit: Gail Murphy, safariLIVE, Djuma)

The lions however, were not the only cat characters to pay us a visit today. In combination with their early morning roars WE also heard the rasping, sawing call of a male leopard. Tayla raced out and was soon hot on his heels. After some time spent searching the area around camp some frantic monkey alarm calls alerted her to elusive cat’s presence. She wove her way through the bush and eventually managed to catch up with Tingana. He was already rather flat, yet his belly looked full and he was in condition excellent. Later that afternoon WE found him yet again, it seemed he had moved some distance during the day and was discovered fast asleep behind the Treehouse dam wall. He arose once to have a long drink at the drying dam before going straight back to sleep.

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(Tingana male leopard having a long refreshing drink, Screenshot Credit: Ravi Teja, safariLIVE, Djuma)

Monday the 7th of November

Another cloudy and damp start to the day. Tayla was doing her rounds of the reserve when she stumbled upon the Nkuhuma pride enjoying the relief of a cool day. The lions lay in the open drinking in the light drizzle with the same enthusiasm as the dry cracked earth. Later that afternoon they were found in the exact same spot, this time the cubs were up and practicing their tree climbing skills. Three of the lionesses even joined in on the fun as the cubs battled it out to be “king of the marula stump!” Soon the scene changed from peaceful and relaxed to alert and tense. The lionesses had spotted a potential prey species through some thick bush. Soon all five of the adults were on the stalk and they exploded out of sight. Seconds later distressed buffalo bellows could be heard echoing through the bush. Tayla raced around the thicket and caught a glimpse of the lions pinning down a young and weakened buffalo calf. It was over almost as soon as it began, a mercy for the buffalo and a triumph for the lions. Then out of nowhere an extremely angry elephant cow and her young calf charged in and sent the lions flying. After the elephants had moved on the pride then returned to their beefy dinner.

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(Nkuhuma cub has conquered a fallen marula, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)

Tuesday the 8th of November

Another grey and cloudy morning dawned over the Sabi Sand, the lions were still firmly ensconced in their buffalo kill from the night before. That was until, a herd of buffalo wandered just a little too close to the big cats. The lionesses flattened their bodies to the ground while they waited and watched with keen anticipation for the hunt. Soon enough, the lions exploded out of their positions and leapt on the back of a young, fit buffalo bull. He bellowed in panicked distress as the lions began the slow process of wearing him down. Out of nowhere, an elephant came crashing through the bush with a truly terrible trumpet! She chased the lions ferociously and the cats scattered into the bush quickly leading the cubs to safety. WE had one last view of the cats as they disappeared into a thick drainage. Later that afternoon the lions were clearly intent on recovering from their extreme exertions earlier that day. They slept with absolute stillness for the entirety of the afternoon.

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(Nkuhuma lionesses attempt to bring down a young buffalo bull, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)

To the east another safariLIVE favourite cat character made an appearance. Quarantine male leopard had been found on the boundary between Cheetah Plains and Nkorho. True to his character, he stuck an iconic pose in the boughs of a massive marula tree. He dozed peacefully as his full belly protruded round and bursting.

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(Quarantine male leopard reclines gracefully in a large marula, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)

Wednesday the 9th of November

The incredible Nkuhuma pride had done it again. Another buffalo bull had fallen to the exceptional hunting prowess of the lionesses in the night. By the time WE caught up with them they had already eaten a good portion of the hard earned meal. The cubs and lionesses fed with aggressive vigor, once again displaying those famous lion table manners. Soon it was back to sleep and so the cats remained for the rest of the day.

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(Grubby Nkuhuma lioness rests after satiating her appetite, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen‎, safariLIVE, Djuma)

That afternoon one of the Birmingham males, Tinyo, was spotted relaxing near the Djuma dam cam. Jamie made her way over to spend some time with the impressive male as he slept off what looked to have been an extremely good meal. He relaxed in the shade as he gazed curiously at various general game species that made their way to the pan for an evening drink before laying his thick maned head down to rest.

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(Birmingham male, Tinyo, rests in the warm and fading daylight, Screenshot Credit: Ravi Teja, safariLIVE, Djuma)

In the heart of Djuma a predator of a different kind paid a visit. A pack of three African wild dogs was found resting up on the side of the road. This is a new pack in the area known as the Ngala breakaway pack. It’s comprised of two adult females and one impressive adult male. The dogs napped happily for a brief time before it was time for a quick dip in a nearby muddy pan and off to terrorise the antelope of Djuma. They trotted at speed through the bush, while on their way both some frustrated zebra and buffalo gave brief chases, but the speed and agility of the dogs was too much for the angry herbivores. WE spent a wonderful afternoon with the dogs on the move until they eventually gave us the slip as the sun began to set.

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(Ngala breakaway wild dog pack male cools off in a muddy wallow, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)

Thursday the 10th of November

Another sunny day in the lowveld dawned with the Nkuhuma pride. They were active and playful in the preheat of the day as both cubs and lionesses alike continued to hone their tree climbing ability. This didn’t last too long however, as the sun began to beat it’s relentless rays down upon the earth the lions made a slow migration into a cool and shady drainage line. Yet the heat didn’t keep them down for long, in the middle of the day buffalo distress calls rung through the air. The safariLIVE crew mobilised and arrived just as Amber Eyes choked the last few breaths out of a large buffalo bull. That afternoon once the sunset safari began, Tayla headed back to the kill to find the lionesses and cubs well stuck in. Two of the Birmingham males were also present, yet they were resting some distance off. The lions fed while the cubs played and the males slept soundly. Eventually it became too dark to remain in the sighting with the cubs, so the last few moments were spent watching the big males rest.

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(Mfumo gives us a good look at his fangs in a wide yawn, Screenshot Credit: Agnes Zsiga‎, safariLIVE, Djuma)

To the far east the Ngala pack had been found, 12 wild dogs in total with more than half playful pups. The dogs rested until the heat of the day broke before they were off and on the hunt. They bounded through the bush leaving a trail of pandemonium in their wake. They chased down a herd of impala and missed the kill by a hair. WE followed them on their adventure until it became too dark to stick on the white fluffy tails of Africa’s most successful diurnal predator.

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(Ngala wild dog pup huddling with the pack, Screenshot Credit: Agnes Zsiga‎, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)

Friday the 11th of Nov

A grey and rainy day greeted the safariLIVE crew as they headed out into the wilderness this morning. Tayla made her way to the lions who were looking just as wet and miserable as the crew. When she arrived both Tinyo and Mfumo, the dominant males in the area, were feeding. A few brave cubs dared to join them and after a few threatening growls each lion and cub alike found a suitable spot to feed. Not much was left of the carcass and the lions picked at what small morsels they could. Eventually Tayla needed to leave the sighting as other excited safari goers made their way in to spend some time with the Nkuhuma pride and Birmingham males.

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(Birmingham male, Mfumo and young cub feeding, Screenshot Credit: Ann Del Tredici, safariLIVE, Djuma)

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