It was a bumper week stuffed full of cats and hyena in both the Mara and the Sabi Sands. Why this should have been the case this week more than any other is anyone’s guess. Biology and the wilderness are always about as predictable as a roulette table.
At Djuma a brief visit from Hukumuri – the ‘bad boy’ of our leopard drama – last Sunday drew predictable whispers of admiration. Fortunately the heartthrob disappeared before the rest of us could become too jealous of the vortex of wonderment he creates.
Equally brief was Styx Pride’s Djuma sojourn. The gangster lions of the south spent a day with us before taking themselves and their mange back to the heart of their territory. Perhaps the pride’s quick departure was linked to the arrival of the three Avoca lions and the consequent need to protect their youngsters from the intruding millennial males. The erstwhile owners of the territory, the Birmingham Boys, after a very brief resistance, seem to have moved permanently onto the banks of the Sand River.
On the spotty side, the cheetah mother and her two cubs (hardly cubs any more) came to visit for an afternoon. As always this was a rare pleasure and we can but hope they find the environs of Djuma to their liking for longer. The sighting was made all the more special by their superb modelling in front of the sunrise.
The main attraction however, possibly inevitably in the Sabi Sands, came from leopards. Thandi and Tlalamba (now eight-months-old) who spent the whole week on Djuma. For me, the best part was spending time with them on foot – experiences like these that crack open the self-erected barrier between humans and the wild. Unusually, the mother upstaged her cub – she killed no fewer than three times. A clueless scrub hare out after sunrise, a friendless young nyala and a simply unfortunate duiker all fell to Thandi’s terrific hunting skills.
In the Mara, the hyaena provided the bulk of the entertainment. On the unpleasant side, the Happy Zebra clan made a buffalo distinctly unhappy by eating it alive. It was a distressing thing to see. Their unwillingness or inability to kill it outright and consequent heart-wrenching bellows of distress drew the attentions of the Sausage Tree pride who eventually stole the prey – mercifully by then out of its misery.
Two smaller prides – the Owino and Mugoro – had a scrap when they found themselves hunting the same buffalo on a territorial boundary. The winner of the fight was the buffalo bull who escaped unscathed as the lions fought.
The last piece of Mara delight came from Kakenya the cheetah mother who was out hunting, seemingly unsuccessfully, in the southern Mara Triangle. Sadly however, she headed into Tanzania towards the end of the week after a pride of lions investigated the area where she was denning her five cubs. We have no idea what has happened to the cubs and it is quite possible that they are not longer with us.
We are hoping for an equally action-packed next seven days but, as always, not knowing will be half the fun.
By: James Hendry