As we reach the end of May, with winter fast approaching, we bear witness to the changing of the seasons. The dryness can now be seen not only in the browning grass and the falling leaves but also in the dwindling waterholes and drying muddy-wallows. We entered into this last week with the build up to the full moon, with its associated bright nights. This second full moon of May heralds an important milestone in the Djuma calendar, the official end to estrous in the impala females, even if some of the males might not quite think so.
In the Mara, the rain has abated for now, but the lushness that has come forth has made it very difficult to find our characters. Exciting news on the weekend continued, however, with Scott fortunate enough to find Kakenya again, proudly sporting her five new cubs. She sought out a new den site for the newcomers and then set out daily in search of food. Kakenya tried in vain for days to catch a meal without any luck, the normally abundant game seemingly non existent on the Mara plains.
Back in Djuma, late on Saturday night into Sunday the powerfully built Hukumuri moved west out of Djuma after finishing the remains of his piglet. He was not gone long before returning to Djuma that same evening. With stealth hampered due to the brightness of the moon, cats like Hukumuri – unable to hunt effectively by night – have had no choice but to resort to loud territorial calls, announcing their presence, this time around at Galago watering hole early on Sunday evening.
In the early morning Hukumuri’s calls were seemingly answered by those of the old Duke of Djuma,Tingana, who not to be out done, materialised we think from the east. Tingana moved south, parallel with the Mlwamati river system, scent-marking and making his presence known before disappearing once again.
That evening Ralph was able to find the elusive leopardess, Thandi with the ever playful Tlalamba, this time on Chitwa Chitwa. There they feasted on the remains of a young bushbuck. It seems that lessons are still in the making as Thandi called her daughter over to feed, only to snarl and growl in her usual manner. In turn the rebellious youth snatched the kill from under her mum and darted off.
Back up to the Mara on Tuesday and Scott’s patients paid off, Kakenya using some good grass cover, managed to sneak up and subdue seemingly the only Thomson’s gazelle in the area. Now with her belly full let’s hope more antelope move into the area so as to support her and her very needy and demanding youngsters.
Tuesday afternoon back in Djuma was equally successful, after a quiet afternoon, we found Hukumuri, sporting a rather round and well-fed belly. We followed him as he deliberately made his way toward Vuyatela watering hole, scent-marking as he went. After an enormous drink, Hukumuri proceeded to lead us back west to where he had secreted an impala ram.
The following morning – Wednesday – Hukumuri was aroused by the commotion of running feet, and he was disturbed by two hyena intent on stealing his prize. He lost the carcass once before reclaiming it. This resulted in the hyena calling in reinforcements, sending Hukumuri scuttling ungraciously up onto a fallen tree with a host of hyena snapping at his tail and ankles.
In the afternoon the cheetah family from the north returned. They certainly know how to make an entrance, killing an impala ram right in front of room five of Galago Lodge, a spectacle for the guests there indeed. Not long after vultures were attracted from all around, which in turn attracted some hyena. But the cheetah stood strong. What was so interesting about this sighting was the fact that the cheetah warded off the attention of several hyena before eventually succumbing to their numbers after nightfall.
The same evening the raucous cackling of the hyena feasting over the remains of the cheetah kill could well have been the cause of the arrival of the Nkuhuma Pride. Although the tracks and signs of the bush indicated that there was possibly a showdown between the Styx Pride and the Nkuhuma Pride, somewhere west of Galago watering hole. Remains of a young zebra and wildebeest were found in the area and tracks lead us to the Nkuhumas not far away, sporting very empty bellies.
The cheetah family moved back and forth in the early dawn, no doubt in response to the newly arriving Nkuhuma and/or Styx prides. David managed to spend some quality time with them as they played and enjoyed the early morning sunshine.
In the afternoon Tayla spent some time with the hungry Nkuhumas, following them as they rose early before they departing Djuma to the west.
The Cheetah family seems to be enjoying Djuma this week with the bright nights as Tayla found them again on Friday morning in the open area of Sandy Patch to the west. They were youngsters full of energy practising their takedown tactics.
On Saturday morning rasping territorial calls guided Ralph to the position of Tingana, moving south once again from Vuyatela watering hole. Tingana heard distress calls in the distance and moved to investigate. It didn’t take him long to lose interest. The reason being that the Nkuhuma Pride was back and they had killed possibly two warthogs between them. We caught up with the pride as they squabbled for the remains of a warthogs head. The need to drink however drove the pride westward toward the familiar Mwalmati river system. They lapped up some very muddy water before crossing the river west toward Nchela Pan. The wind picked up strongly at this stage coming from the north. The opportunistic hunters had their eyes on some impala until an large unsuspecting boar stumbled right into the midst of the pride, not yet satisfied with their Saturday pork, the Nkuhuma Pride savagely ate the warthog while it was still alive.
Written by: Steve Faulconbridge