Villiers Reports from Elephant Plains: Meeting with Salayexe and Cub
The morning was gloomy and dark as we set out, really keen to try and see Salayexe and her cub. At first the animals were all hunkered down in the coolness of the morning, so we concentrated on raptors for a while. We spotted an African Harrier Hawk (ex Gymnogene), followed soon after by a fierce looking Wahlberg’s Eagle. And when we arrived at Big Dam we were greeted by the beautiful calls and a lovely sighting of a Fish Eagle.
Then we heard that a leopard had been spotted but before being identified it disappeared into the riverbed. We joined forces and the trackers on both our vehicles did a fabulous job of following any sign of the elusive cat.
When the trackers reported that the tracks belonged to Salayexe, our excitement was tangible, and grew by the moment.
And when we found her – well, you can imagine the degree of elation. As always, Salayexe was unperturbed by our presence and continued patrolling the area.
When she spotted a herd of Impala she went into hunting mode, and began to stalk. We thought for a moment that our day would be completed with a kill, but as she broke cover the impalas nimbly leaped away.
The she came right up to our vehicle and started contact calling with those typical soft chuffing sounds.
Well, this could only mean that the cub was very close by and our anticipation and excitement was raised yet another notch – and as we scanned the area thoroughly we spotted the little one lying on a termite mound.
As always when separated for a while, the greeting between the two was lovely to witness, they jumped on each other and ran around, playing and rolling around like kittens. As before Salayexe initiated much of the play as the two stalked each other, jumped onto each each other and played a bit of hide-and-seek.
Just when the games started to slow down a heavy drizzle started and we had to leave the two to rest as we returned to the Lodge.
Would you believe! An even more fabulous afternoon was waiting for us …
We set out hoping to catch up with Salayexe and cub again, but they were not at the river where we had left them. But just before we left the Lodge we had heard Guinea Fowl alarm calling, and we decided to visit the plain in front of the Lodge to try our luck. As we approached we could see people at the Lodge gesticulating madly, so we followed their directions …
To find Salayexe and Cub drinking at the dam in front of the Lodge. Aaah, terrific! When they left, they were on a mission, with mom swiftly leading the way as she climbed termite mounds and trees to look around.
When she spotted a scrub hare she immediately went into hunting mode and patiently waited, crept nearer, and waited a little more. We waited, not making a sound (except for our thundering hearts!) She was possibly close to a pounce when her cub launched itself to land firmly on her back, and realizing that it was now or never, Salayexe lunged forward – and missed! Whew! Now that was close!
After we left the two leopards we were incredibly lucky! We found a Honey Badger with a teeny baby – the cutest little bundle. The sighting was not for long, but was stupendous.
Then we found three Styx Lionesses at a Kudu Kill. Two of the cats were so full, they were just lying there, very reluctant to move while the third continued to feed on the carcass.
We could hear a number of hyenas around and they appeared every few minutes, yipping and giggling in that distinctive way they have when excited. As they approached the carcass the lionesses sent them packing. Again and again! It was amazing to watch the interactions as the lions tried to intimidate the hyenas and the hyenas tried to intimidate the lions.
Suddenly the lions froze, and all looked in the same direction – a commotion to the east. It was was the sound of the marauding Birmingham Males – and they were headed in this direction! The lionesses bolted … !! And within seconds the hyenas were all over the carcass, yipping, whooping and giggling even more than earlier. It was chaos as they tried to eat as much as possible before the Birmingham Five arrived …
Unfortunately we had to leave as it was time for our dinner, but we plan to return to the spot in the morning …
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