As it would have it, Saturday proved yet again to be a Caturday. On one hand we had the Queen of Djuma with her heirs feeding on an adult male duiker. As the morning progressed the little royal family are well fed – they took on the Afrikaans age old saying of ‘magies vol, oegies toe’ – meaning tummies full, eyes closed.
It was with heavy hearts that WE discovered the Nkuhumas with two ailing lionesses experiencing the same symptoms the cubs had. It was confirmed that what is plaguing the lion pride is in fact White Muscle Disease. Amber Eyes was one of the adults showing symptoms and moved stiffly with the pride followed by the four cubs who were now too showing symptoms.
Karula flaunted her mothering skills on a sunny morning – she had caught a baby nyala and WE watched as she tactfully hoisted it into a tree. She called for her two young ones, WE seem confused WE thought that she had left the cubs approximately 2 kilometers away from where she was . Suddenly Hosana popped himself out of Jurie’s garden, and fed in a frenzy – ignoring the fact that he had eaten the night before. Xongile finally decided to join her mother and brother later in the day. She shyly snacked on the remainder of the carcass. She and Karula shared a comforting scene with Karula showing off her loving side as she groomed Xongile affectionately.
Another leopard decided to make our Sunday extra special. Tingana, after being tracked by Jamie was found resting in the shade in Arathusa. Later in the day Brent found Tingana hungry and moving at great speeds. Tingana decided that WE had seen enough of him and swiftly disappeared into Buffelshoek.
The day had rapidly moved on without a single sighting of a big cat. So it was with great relief that WE found the Nkuhumas. The tawny cats were flat and so WE did not jump to conclusions on how they were fairing in the battle against White Muscle Disease. The only solace was that the remaining 6 cubs were suckling, all adult females were there and they were huddled closely together.
Tuesday greeted us with a strong glimmer of hope. WE found four of the Nkuhumas and all six of the cubs. They were not walking with the confident strides that WE had become accustomed to in the past months but they were definitely walking more smoothly than they had been in the last few days of tragedy. When dusk settled in, the lions were bursting from the seams after feeding on a buffalo that had been caught earlier that day. They eased naturally into a cuddle of cubs and dozed off looking cautiously content with their day.
The morning was filled with threatening clouds and vibrating colours. Mfumo and Tinyo thought this was an opportune moment to poise for a regal photo. The male lions reflected each other and if it was not for their distinctive markings WE would not have known who was who.
The threatening clouds finally split their seams and raindrops burst from them, falling rapidly to the ground.
All the way in Cheetah Plains Jamie braved the rain for a sighting well worth her dampened clothes and chattering teeth – the new litter of Styx cubs. The bundles of spotty, fuzzy fur were content, even in the rain, as they suckled form mom and spoiled us with our first sighting of them.
Mfumo took reprieve from the heat from the day by sitting in the downpour. He seemed to relish in the shower and sat silently at the dam slowly filling up. Eventually he started to contact call and then roar powerfully, perhaps in hope of finding his coalition members to enjoy the rain with.
The sight WE were treated to for a Friday morning was most welcome. Brent came across six very full and fat cubs, along with Tinyo, Mfumo and all five Nkuhuma lionesses. The lions were looking to stronger and healthier, feeding and picking at the remains of another claimed buffalo carcass.
The scene was not peaceful for long when suddenly cubs scattered and took refuge on a termite mound as their potential fathers, Tinyo and Mfumo had a small scuffle over girlfriends, as usual. Tinyo decided to take leave and followed Amber eyes and the youngest lioness. WE followed them to their roadblock spot for the day and eventually let the sleeping cats lie