Tuningi Ranger’s Journal July 2017

By gavintonkinson on July 25, 2017

A hearty welcome to all our fans once again….

This month has seen winter on its back, and we look forward to some warmer temperatures to follow from next month onwards.

Ok, so this month has as usual been a cracker month as far as wildlife sightings go here at Tuningi Safari Lodge.

We will kick off with a very unusual sighting of White-Faced Owls that I found one afternoon just sitting in a dense acacia thicket right next to one of our game drive roads. What makes it unusual was that there were 6 owls all together, which is the most I have ever seen together in 18 years of guiding, as you usually will see them at night, not in the middle of the day in those numbers !!

white faced owl 1 white faced owl 2

Our local pride of lions has been spoiling us with a variety of awesome sightings this month, however they very seldom all been together all in one place at the same time. This is probably due to the fact that the females all have cubs of differing ages….. From 1 ½ years to just 4 weeks old… yes, our newest addition to the Mica pride is the Jamala females litter of 4 brand new cubs that we have located just last week, and this is causing the split in the pride, as the females with the younger cubs do not want the older cubs to come close and play with the very small ones, as they could be a little too rough with them.

Cub and vehicle_ Lioness stare_ Pride at Tumuga dam 5 Pride at Tumuga dam 2 Pride at Tumuga dam 1

They have however been very good at killing prey this month, with zebra been the preferred flavor for this month. As the cubs are growing older, their appetites are growing even larger, and the girls are having to work even harder to provide enough for the pride. Competition around the carcass is increasing and creates amazing sightings as they squabble to get the lions share.

Mica pride eat giraffe Mica pride eat giraffe 4 Mica pride eat giraffe 3 Mica pride eat giraffe 2

The boys have also had their hands busy, as the Kwande and Monomoholo males have joined up to create formidable opponents to the north of the territory. The opposing coalition has been making regular incursions into the Chimbro brother’s territory, but they have been very successful in sending them back to their own territory further north of the ridge.

Chimbro yawns 3 Chimbro yawns 2 Chimbro yawns 4

And while they have been away from the females, they have been eating well…. Yes male lions do hunt !! They hunt extremely well, they just go for the larger, slower prey like buffalo bulls, as they managed to kill this old guy, and they fed on it for about 4 days before leaving it to the hyenas and jackals.

Chimbro and Bafefo eat buff 6 Chimbro and Bafefo eat buff 5 Chimbro and Bafefo eat buff 4 Chimbro and Bafefo eat buff 3 Chimbro and Bafefo eat buff 2 Chimbro and Bafefo eat buff 1

The carnage does not end here…. One morning we following the older Chimbro and Mica female, as they were hunting what we could not see, when all hell broke loose, and the Mica female managed to catch a young warthog, and had it firmly in her jaws, and once the life had left the hapless pigs body, the big old guy decided that he was going to steal it for himself….. I suppose the king will always have right of way !!

chimbro steals warthog 1 chimbro steals warthog 2 chimbro steals warthog 3 Chimbro steals warthog_

As tough as the males can be, so can they also show some affection and be gentle to their offspring.

Here the king shows his softer side as some of the cubs come over to greet him, but as you can see he really just tolerates them by showing his massive teeth.

chimbro and cubs 3 chimbro and cubs 2 chimbro and cubs 1

And sometimes the big guys just need to rest….

Chimbro yawns 5

The cheetahs have also given us some WOW photographic opportunities, as they lay around in classical cheetah pose. They are still moving long distances throughout the park, still in search of females, but luckily for us they are frequenting the south west of the park, and we as rangers love tracking them down.

sunset cheetahs 9 sunset cheetahs 8 sunset cheetahs 7 sunset cheetahs 6 sunset cheetahs 4 sunset cheetahs 3 sunset cheetahs 1

They also seem to have cottoned on to the flavor of the month, being zebra, as one crispy cold morning they managed to bring down a young zebra foal, and made short work of the meat, as they engulfed it in a very short time.

cheetahs eat zebra on nilotica 2 cheetahs eat zebra on nilotica 1

The wild dogs….. Well…. What’s that again…??

Yip, we are still not having much luck with them, as they are still denning in the mountains in the north east of the park, and we are still eagerly awaiting the time for them to bring their puppies down so that we can see how many there are…. But, we have been having a few sporadic sightings of what seems to be a breakaway pack of 3 females, that are roaming the boundaries of the park. Wild dogs will often create these breakaway packs of either females or males that will go in search of similar packs of the opposite sex, where they will then join to create a new pack, and this is how they ensure genetic diversity within the bigger population.

breakaway pack 1 breakaway pack 2

Our leopard sightings this month have been good, due to some very persistent tracking by us rangers, as we have been working tirelessly to find our guests the pinnacle of your safari.

Tsala has been the most difficult to find, and has made a few appearances, and seems as though she has definitely lost her cubs again !! Lets hope she can get this monkey off her back in the future.

Tsala on main 1 Tsala on main 2

Munye on the other hand is travelling huge distances, and has covered the whole south western section of the park, and on one occasion even went on a “ vacation” to the north west of the park, which has caused somewhat of a stir of amusement among the rangers in that we are left wondering why he is moving these large distances among the bigger males in the area. Perhaps he is testing the boundaries of his opponents, to see if he can settle in a space without too much competition from other males. He always seems to find his way back to the south western section of the park, and we hope that he will soon settle down and become the territorial male in our area, and who knows… maybe even mate with Tsala one day….

Munye at Tau dam 1 Munye at Tau dam 2 Munye at Tau dam 3

One morning we made our way to the north eastern section of the park to go and have a look at the new kid on the block… “ Dineo “, a young female who has been giving the guys up in the north east a steady supply of good sightings, as she seems to have accepted the vehicles and has habituated very nicely to us coming to get some good images of her as she goes about her daily chores of being a leopard.

This particular day, she had managed to kill a very large male impala, and dragged it up into a shepherds tree, just in time before the hyenas could get to it. This was quite the feat, as she is not a very large female, and we certainly hope that she will soon be the mother of some cubs, which would mean an awful lot to us here in Madikwe, in that she will be the start of getting more habituated leopards into the park.

Dineo eats impala 2 Dineo eats impala 1

The hyena cubs at the den in the south is a great filler sighting to the bigger ones, as the 3 cubs have been parading their cuteness around the vehicles, and the younger cub has just started his transformation from baby fluff into his adult “plumage”, which is a must see… Your expectations of what hyenas are will be changed forever, as they are for me, one of the cutest things out here !!

Hyenas at den 5 Hyenas at den 4 Hyenas at den 2 Hyenas at den 1

As the temperatures start getting warmer, the elephants are starting to feel the need to even mud bathe at some of the pans, and sometimes becoming very protective of the scarce commodity, chasing any other animals away from their patch of fun in the sun.

Eles bath Eles and giraffe 3 Eles and giraffe 1

Well, that’s it for this month….

Hope to see you all soon here at Tuningi Safari Lodge ….


Gavin and the T-Team.

Sunrise from vaalboom 1

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