Villiers Shares from Elephant Plains: Mathimba Lions Forced West as Birmingham Males Continue their Intrusion …
Our morning started again as we left the Lodge and found a beautiful breeding herd of elephants just a stone throw away … a number of females with their little calves crossed the road right in front of us. This gave us the chance to try some motion blur images because the morning was very cloudy and quite dark. (The temperature has dropped and is really pleasant!)
From the elephants we took a slowish drive along the Manyalete River to where we saw the leopard cub yesterday. We saw Salayexe for a short while as she stalked some Bushbuck along the river, but we couldn’t get closer because of the thick vegetation.
While we were parked and watching Salayexe, we heard a lion roaring and decided to go in that direction. On the way we saw a mother White Rhino with her calf, and after stopping for some images we continued in the direction of the lion.
Then we found a whole lot of buffalo tracks – and there were lion tracks over some, and under some of these. So clearly a lion had chased buffalo here. Then as we travelled around a bend in the road, slap bang, right in the middle of the road was a large male lion – one of the Mathimba coalition, and one of the biggest male lions in this entire area. His nickname is ‘Belly-hair’ because of the black hair on his belly.
Speaking of bellies – his was extremely full, so he had definitely eaten well in the last hours – probably a buffalo, but when we found him he was just lying in the road, chilling and panting because he was taking some strain because of the very full belly.
We spent more than an hour with him, watching as he occasionally tried to make himself more comfortable with that distended tummy. There was no sign of a carcass nearby, and his brother (they are a coalition of two) was also nowhere to be seen. We surmised that with the Birmingham males intruding deeper and deeper into the territory he and his brother are being forced to move towards the west – but now they are intruding on Majinge males territory.
Besides the Lion, Leopard, Elephant and Rhino we also saw Nyalas, Warthogs, Wildebeest, and lots of Impala. By lunchtime the sky was black with rainclouds, and in fact it rained for almost three hours … 6mm which settled the dust and now everything looks and smells so fresh with that after-the-rain smell. And of course it is much cooler – and to top it all, the frogs are celebrating loudly tonight.
We first went to look for Salayexe or her cub, but couldn’t find them. We had a lot of distraction from a young bull elephant that entertained us by blocking the road ahead of us. He was adamant that we would not pass, and as we inched forward he backed up. In fact he reversed all the way up the road, around corners, shaking his head at us from time to time. We captured some really outstanding shots during this ‘face-off’! It was really quite playful and a wonderful start to our drive.
We found a herd of about twenty old buffalo Bulls and spent quite some time with them. We switched off the vehicle, and allowed them to just mill around us. The sounds of them chomping and chewing sounded so loud without the rumble of the engine.
Then we tried to locate Tingana after a report of fresh leopard tracks, but we didn’t spend too much time there as the tracks disappeared into thick bush.
We caught up with four of the five Birmingham Male Pride, and found that one of the males was mating with a Styx Lioness. We had a better view of the others, and used our time using our spotlights to capture a variety of differently lit shots.
So we started and ended our day with some really excellent lion sightings.
We are determined to find Salayexe again and plan to start along the Manyalete River again in the morning …
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