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Friday, 30 March 2012

Metsi And Dewane

Successful first time mother, the Metsi female, last year raised her two sons to independance. Here she is seen mating with the new dominant male, the Dewane male. Hopefully a new litter will be around to amuse us in the future!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Trees And Leopards

Most people , when they think of leopards, also think of trees - The stereotypical picture postcard of a leopard relaxing in the branches of a tree is the image that comes to mind first.
Many people are therefore surprised that when they come to stay at the lodge they see plenty of leopards, but seldom do they see them posing in a tree…
Leopards are known to take their kills up into trees to keep their meal out of reach of other predators, but there needs to be other predators around to make them do this, most leopards prefer to take their prey into the shade and feed on the ground, only hoisting the carcass if threatened by lions, hyenas and wild dogs. Even after the kill is safely stashed up a tree, the leopard will spend a lot of the time on the ground in the surrounding area.
Leopards often rest in the branches of a tree when it is hot, but more often they will choose a shady thicket to lie in.
Leopards will sometimes climb trees to look for prey to hunt, but they will also use termite mounds and rocks for the same purpose.
The individual personality of a leopard will determine how often they climb trees, some individuals are hardly ever seen up in the branches, whilst others seem to use every opportunity they can to get up there.
In our traversing area there is one leopard that we can rely on for the classic leopard/tree picture and that is the Tlangisa female, she seems to be one of those leopards that prefers tree climbing – as these videos show!

Monday, 26 March 2012

African Big Cats: Mating Lions (HD)

In the days leading up to the fight between the Mapogo and Selati coalitions one of the Ximhungwe lionesses was on heat. At the time she came into oestrus, the Mapogo were at the edge of the territory feeding on a buffalo, the Selati males were roaring within earshot so she instincively headed towars the males that she could hear, driven by the urge to mate. The Selati males mated with her and she returned to her pride a few days later. A couple of weeks later she again came into oestrus. This time the Mapogo werte quiet after a run-in with the Selati males so she again headed to mate with the new coalition. A few days into the mating period the Mapogo had regained their confidence and started roaring, the lioness heard the roars and ran away from her Selati partner towards the more familiar roars of her dominant coalition. This video shows the resulting reunion of the Ximhungwe lioness and Mapogo male. Things have changed now, but by mating with both coalitions any cubs she produces may have a better chance of survival in the changing dynamics of the local lion population.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Majestic Lions In Glorious Sunshine

A look back at Mapogo male Mr.T looking glorious early one morning as he and Makulu walk across the clearings in front of the lodge. Their attention was on a male leopard (Kashane Male) walkin on the clearings on the other side of the dam.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

A New Era Begins: Meet The Selati Male Lions

The Selati Males are a coalition of four lions born into the Southern Pride in 2007 and 2008 and sired by the Golf Course males. When they first left their maternal pride there were five males but their wanderings brought them into the territory of the Majingalane males where a fight between the two coalitions resulted in one of the younger Selati males being fatally wounded. The four males needed to find a place to grow and avoid contact with the Majingalanes and that saw them pushing towards the western section of the reserve, a place that they had been previously as youngsters when the pride was spending time trailing the buffalo herd. It was a slow approach, the young males were accomplished buffalo hunters and following the big herd and building themselves up was the primary goal at the time. At this time the young Othawa pride had also taken a liking to the buffalo herd and inevitably the two groups met, this time it was the Selati males that emerged as the victors, killing the youngest male of the pride. The victory proved to be short lived as the Mapogo coalition somehow got wind of the new males on the edges of their territory and chased them back south.
It would be a while before we heard of the Selati males in the west again, but eventually they did return, again following the big buffalo herd. At the same tome two of the Mapogo males were in the same general area, also looking for the buffalo, speculation was rife as to what would happen if the four young males bumped into the two big old males - would numbers or experience win the day? In the end there was no confrontation, both sets of males making a kill a few kilometres apart. The two mapogos only took down a calf, whilst the Selati boys had an adult, this meant that the two older males finished first and began patrolling, straight towards the younger males. It seems that upon hearing the roars of the Mapogo getting closer, the Selati males left their buffalo kill and moved briskly in the opposite direction, the older males never even knew they were there and another conflict had been avoided.
Again it would be a couple of months before the Selati males were heard of in the west, but the next time they were close things were beginning to change. One of the lionesses from the Ximhungwe pride had come into oestrus and was looking for a mate. The three Mapogo were a long distance from the pride with a buffalo kill and she did not know where they were. The Selati males were roaring to her east and following her urge to find a mate she went towards the position where she would be sure to find a male. Mating occurred with one or more of the Selati males and she returned to the pride a few days later, just as the Mapogo had finished their kill. The Mapogo would have had no idea she had mated with rival males so there would be no problems with any eventual cubs.
The Selati males had now received a confidence boost, the lure of females brought them further west once more, again at a time when the ruling Mapogo coalition were indisposed, this time with two buffalo kills between the three of them. The Selati males were patrolling and marking late one evening and were seen heading in the general direction of where the older males were feeding.
The next morning the four young males were found looking very pleased with themselves only a short distance away from where the Mapogo coalition had been feeding, the three Mapogo were found shortly after, heading away from the area, one of the males was badly beaten. It seemed that the Selati males had begun a serious attempt to takeover the Mapogo territory.
Whilst the Mapogo males stayed quiet in the southern reaches of their territory, the Selati males began to explore the northern areas and made themselves a buffalo kill, the takeover was on pause whilst they fed.
At around this time the Ximhungwe lioness came back into oestrus, and again the Mapogos were quiet whilst the Selati males were roaring, having finished feeding. Again the lionesses hormones took her to the younger males as her pride males were inactive. A day or two later the Mapogos did begin to advertise their presence and the lioness hurriedly left the young males to continue mating with the males she was more familiar with.
The 4 Selati males, knowing the position of the older males, began to further explore the northern areas before becoming hungry and returning south to look for the buffalo herd. The mapogos again took down a pair of buffalo, close to the spot where the previous double kill occurred. The Selati males were at this time only a maximum of two kilometres away and it seemed another fight was on the cards.
To begin with, nothing happened, the two coalitions missed each other. Then on the morning of the 16th of March they met...
The ensuing battle resulted in two of the Mapogo heading east to the far edge of their territory and one of them lying dead on the side of the road, tattered torn and broken. The four Selati males had some superficial scratches and seemingly a new territory.
In the days since the fight the Selati males have been up and down the western section, making, calling and generally establishing themselves as the new owners of the area. they still have to take over the two resident prides (Othawa and Ximhungwe) and there is till the possibility that the remaining two Mapogo males may try to fight back.
The coming months will be an interesting time for the local lion population as well as for those that follow the developments, already the tracks of the remaining two Mapogo males have been seen in the area again, and the one of the Selati males got a bit of a hiding from the lionesses of the Ximhunwe pride when he came too close this morning!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

New Lion Cubs In The Wild

Here we take a longer look at the new cubs of the Othawa pride of lions, now threatened by the takeover of the surrounding territory by the Southern/Selati males. The new males were reportedly heading towards the area that these little cuties were last seen!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Idube Safari Highlights #137: 03 - 05 March 2012

After all the excitement and emotion of yesterday this video will probably be remembered as the last highlights video to feature any of the Mapogo male lions and the first to offer a really good look at the new coalition, the Southern/Selati males. Perhaps the remaining two Mapogo will pop up from time to time, I hope so. There are also some great leopard sightings, the Othawa pride cubs, buffalo, elephant, giraffe and zebra. With the Southern males in full takeover mode it is unlikely we will see much more of the cubs of the Othawa pride, or the Ximhungwe pride for that matter, so enjoy the sightings whilst you can...

Friday, 16 March 2012

The End Of An Era

Today saw the end of the reign of the Mapogo coalition as the dominant lions in our area. The four males of the Southern or Selati coalition have reduced the once mighty coalition to a partnership of two old men. This morning a fierce battle took place between the two coalitions, the four young males emerging victorious, fatally wounding the Mapogo Male known variously as Mohawk, Mr.T or SaTan. The two remaining Mapogo fled east all but giving up their territory to the new males. It seems that Mr.T stood his ground as the four younger males approached, giving the two older males a chance to escape, whether this was the intention is debatable but many would like to see it that way, a noble end to perhaps the most notorious anti-hero of the coalition.
It was Mr.T that was known for his aggression towards other lions, and he had a reputation for killing cubs too. Some of his reputation was deserved but mostly he was misunderstood. It is true that he was a killer, but all lions are. The coalition as a whole was responsible for the deaths of many lions in the early years of their takeover but Mr.T seemed to be singled out due to his appearance, his short Mohawk mane and a seemingly broken nose made him look more of a fighter than the others. Over the years his face became a mass of battle scars, but many of those scars were from fighting with other members of the coalition over food and mating rights. For a couple of years the six males split into two groups, one of four and one of two, meeting irregularly in the middle of the territory. Mr.T and his brother Kinky Tail were the two that stayed in the eastern part of the territory and were the first to come across a challenge from new males – the Majingalane coalition. Brutal images of the two Mapogo attacking  and fatally wounding an isolated member of the new coalition further enhanced Mr.T’s brutal reputation. Later the same day when the four remaining Majingalanes fought back it was Mr.T that fled leaving his brother to be killed and eaten.
Returning to the west and joining with the four remaining coalition members Mr.T managed to take the coalition into another battle with the Majingalane males, with a disastrous outcome – only four of the five males returned, one with serious injuries and the eastern territory was lost.
During Mr.T’s absence from the west, the other Mapogo males had taken over a new pride – the Ximhungwe pride. A number of cubs had been born into the pride since the takeover but as Mr.T had not been with the other coalition members at the time he did not recognise the cubs as family and instinctively began to wipe them out. This again enhanced his brutal reputation, yet he was only following his instincts in order to ensure that the next generation of the Ximhungwe pride would have the blood of the Mapogo coalition running through their veins, there was no way for him to be sure that the cubs at the time already were of the Mapogo bloodline.
Seemingly content in a smaller portion of their territory the four remaining Mapogo started to build on their dominance of the Ximhungwe pride until one day one of them decided to go for a walk in a north-easterly direction towards their old territory, and never returned.
Down to three, the Mapogo coalition seldom left the western sector of the reserve and Mr.T seemed to settle down in his old age. There was no reason for the Majingalanes to head west, as they were content with their takeover in the east. The three old males seemed to be heading for an easy retirement until the arrival of the four young Southern Males.
At first the new males were wary of the old warriors and were even chased out of the area by them on one occasion. As they became bolder they pushed further west, but still left an unfinished buffalo kill to the vultures and hyenas when they heard the roars of the Mapogos getting closer.
It took a lioness of the Ximhungwe pride to build their confidence, she came into oestrus at a time that the Mapogos were far from the pride on a buffalo kill, hearing the roars of the new males she headed towards them to mate. Finding a female to mate with brought the younger males closer to Mapogo controlled territory and it was not long before there was a confrontation between the two coalitions.
The first confrontation ended with all seven males walking away, but the Mapogo looked like a beaten trio, one had narrowly avoided serious injury and the three took some time to recuperate. The Southern males used the time that the Mapogo were inactive to explore the territory and heal from the minor cuts and scratches they had sustained themselves. Gradually the distance between the two coalitions was reduced and in the early hours of this morning the Southern males laid claim to the west.
The two remaining Mapogo will probably now become nomadic, avoiding the larger coalitions, it is unlikely we will see much of them now.
So it is a sad day as we mourn the passing of a well known lion, yet an exciting day as a new area has begun – The King Is Dead, Long Live The New Kings!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Idube Safari Highlights #136: 01 - 03 March 2012

New Othawa pride lion cubs on this one, plus the Ximhunwge pride on the airstrip!
Leopards feature too, as do lots of other animals

Monday, 12 March 2012