Villiers Reports from Elephant Plains: Lions Chase Leopards into Trees
We were happy to find Salayexe and Cub relaxing on the termite mound where we photographed them yesterday, and again we were able to spend quality time with them as the cub suckled and played. Then we had a very endearing scene when the cub started to lick mom’s face all over and mom responded by grooming the little one thoroughly … all this a meter or two from our vehicle!
We were so delighted this encounter and with our mornings images that we almost turned back to the Lodge, quite satisfied so far and convinced that nothing could top this wonderful experience.
Luckily we decided to move on … and just as well …
We found the two Mathimba male lions – and they were with the four lionesses from the Styx pride.
Not only that –
– they had found Tingana, the large male leopard, and he was cowering way up in a tree. We parked next to the lions and could see the leopard keeping a wary eye on his adversaries from his lofty perch.
We remained with the lions because one of the females was very flirtatious with one of the males, and he responded with that typical phlegming behavior, grimacing, salivating, and baring his teeth! Wonderful photography!
While this was all going on there was a herd of elephants just in sight nearby, and then two buffalo Bulls strolled onto the scene, unaware that the lions were there.
With a single bound one of the lionesses leaped up to chase one of the Bulls – but then, realizing that she had no backup from the other pride members (their tummies are very full from a recent meal), she gave up her instinctive charge and returned to the pride.
So, here we had four of the Big Five visible from a single stop! Elephants, lions, leopard, and buffalo! Wow!
We drove to Tingana in the tree and as we approached we saw that we were watching Kwatile … so where was Tingana? Ah! There … up in a neighbouring tree!
The two leopards must have been taken unaware while mating, when the lions found them and chased them …
We waited until Tingana slowly came down from the tree, but Kwatile was somewhat more anxious and only came down just as we prepared to leave. But as she jumped from the tree one of the lionesses immediately spotted her and followed her!
We didn’t want to hang around because of the sensitive situation, and we didn’t want to put Kwatile at risk, but we planned this as our first stop for the afternoon drive.
We returned to the lions this afternoon and found all six together, sort of resting in the afternoon sun. They were yawning, stretching, changing positions constantly, giving us plenty to photograph.
Then the amorous couple from this morning started to sniff each other, and again the male started his phlegming behavior. Before long the two wandered away discreetly into the bush together, and returned again after a few minutes.
When they returned the whole pride got up and started to walk away together. We noticed that the second male, more than ten years old, has problems walking. He started out fine for a few paces, and then his back legs seemed to give way. Because of his age and this problem, if he is challenged by a younger, stronger male, he will be in trouble.
We left the pride and not too far away we found Tingana and followed him for the remainder of the evening as he sauntered along slowly.
He stopped frequently to call, and each time we turned off our engines to listen for an answering call. Then he arrived at the spot where we saw Anderson a day or two ago, and here he started to mark and scrape in earnest.
When he felt he had done enough he settled down, and again we switched off our engines. That was such a magical moment. Nothing to be heard but a Scops Owl and some crickets, and the beautiful leopard next to us and the bright Milky Way up above … it was one of those special moments that one remembers when back in the reality of city life …
On the way back to the Lodge we completed our Big Five tally when we saw a rhino.
And for the final drive for this safari in the morning we are happy to just see what the morning brings …
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