Unfortunate Death

This morning’s Game Drive brought sad news to the Kapama family. We have been seeing large amounts of vultures in several trees surrounding an area where one of our very relaxed resident female leopards, Mbilo, had last been seen. A few days ago two River Lodge stations were present when she came out of a block with only one cub when previously there had been two. Mbilo was acting out of sorts and kept calling for the other cub but to no avail and she went off into the bush with just the one cub.

Then, this morning, a Buffalo Camp Ranger Jordan found one of the cubs dead near where Mbilo had last been seen. Several minutes later, Mbilo was sighted calling and calling for her cubs, and again, there was no answer. She traveled up and down most of the morning calling. By the time she was last seen she was still alone. At this time we are unsure of the last cub’s fate.

Later in the morning, our Head Ranger Liezel and Senior Ranger Kim, went to look to see what had been the cause of the cub’s death. It was decided by tracks seen around the cub and the size and placement of the wounds, and the tufts of hair removed, (as Leopard will do when they eat),  that another Leopard had killed him. This is not uncommon. Male Leopards, especially transient males and territorial males, will kill and sometimes even eat young cubs.

Hair tufts found at the scene

Wounds near the neck

All of us here at Kapama are saddened by the loss. But nature, as beautiful as it is, can sometimes be cruel. We are hoping that we will soon know whether or not the last cub is safe and sound with his mother.

By: Noelle DiLorenzo – River Lodge Ranger

Leopard action on Video

These elusive cats are regularly seen but it’s not always that you have time or have a camera with you. Being nocturnal they are normally spotted when the sun have set and leaves us with great sightings and the guest with 100’s of photographs. On this specific day I was lucky enough to have my video camera with me and with my amateur video graphic skills I managed the capture these fun moments between a female and her cubs.

Click on the link below to watch this video

Leopard cub playing with mom

With the rain we had the last couple of months, all the dams are full and most of the rivers and streams are flowing making it difficult for some of us to cross and get to the other side. I managed to capture a female and her two cubs trying to cross a low water bridge outside Karula. It was only a meter drop and the cub have met the mother safely on the other side.

Click on the link below to watch this video

Leopard cub trying to cross a low water bridge

Mike Kirkman-Senior Ranger, Kapama Karula

Karula Midday Madness

Because of the rain during the morning safari some of my guests decided to sleep late.  After breakfast we set out again to make up for lost time.  I wasn’t expecting much activity as it was quite hot by this stage… But were we in for a surprise!

We had found a huge male leopard a few hours before but struggled to follow him because of the rain.  We now went in search of him again and were rewarded with a much clearer view as he climbed a few termite mounds and peered into the burrows, obviously in search of a warthog breakfast.

We were slowly heading back to towards the lodge, easing past a lone buffalo bull along the way, when one of the other rangers gave us a call on the radio.  He informed me that there was some suspicious behaviour up in the skies and so we rushed off to investigate.  Upon arriving at the scene we were astonished to see literally hundreds of vultures in hurricane formation directly above us.  We watched as they came hurtling through the air at breakneck speed towards a dark object lying in the grass.  It was difficult to see exactly what animal they were squabbling over through the writhing mass of feathers.  Our first clue eventually came bounding up to us in the form of a baby wildebeest, clearly confused.  It immediately became apparent to us that his mother had been killed sometime that morning.  He ran up to the vultures, bleating as he went, searching for his mother.  This caused the vultures to scatter and a yellow-billed kite that was “waiting in the wings” took this opportunity to make a half-hearted attack on the youngster.

We were amazed that the calf’s bleating had not attracted any predators as the sound is like someone ringing a dinner bell.  Not long after a black-backed jackal arrived but was clearly more interested in the carcass than the live bait.

A little further down the track we stumbled upon a pride of three lions, one adult female, and two sub-adults (male and female).  They were the obvious culprits of the murder as they all had full bellies and were now sleeping it off in the shade of a river bushwillow thicket, completely ignoring the cries of the young orphan.

This is one story which does not have a happy ending, however, as later that afternoon during the evening safari the lions began to stir again.  They made a beeline straight for the wildebeest calf, made short work of him as if he were a rag doll and dragged him down into the riverbed to be eaten at their leisure.

All photo’s by Rob Overy

Cameron Pearce – Head Ranger, Kapama Karula

Leopards for January

Leopard Sightings for January 2011




This month really has been a great month @ Kapama for seeing Leopard. The vast majority of these sightings (18 out of 43) were of a young female Imbilo and her two cubs. They were seen nearly every day and the cubs are now getting older and much more active. The months of patience and the careful approach to these cubs now means that they are far more relaxed than their mother. This makes them much easier to find and to follow. The only drawback is that both the remaining cubs are male so are unlikely to stay past 18 to 24 months of age. Hopefully though the value of this same patience will pay off when Imbali, Dzongeni and Dzongeni’s daughter have their own cubs, as well as Imbilo’s next litter. With luck Dzongeni’s daughter will settle somewhere on the reserve.

There were a number of other leopard sightings around the reserve, which considering the no off road policy for the summer is still an amazing number. Some of these sightings were unfortunately brief though many sightings were stable and a number of vehicles were able to pass through.

Here are some of the leopard photo’s that one of our guests, Rob Overy took.


Mike Kirkman-Senior Ranger, Kapama Karula

November the Month for Leopards

Great leopard sightings for the month, left us with some magnificent photo opportunities.

November we had about 36 separate leopard sightings on Kapama. From these sighting, 6 different Leopards (without the cubs) was individually identified using spot pattern variation. These characters ranged from number and spacing of muzzle spots to the forehead and eye patterns. 

One of the Leopards that we have seen is a female with the 2 remaining cubs that is about 4 months old, most of the sightings were around Karula.  This female and her cubs provided some great photo opportunities and the cubs are completely relaxed with the game drive vehicles. Hopefully these cubs will remain in the area and stay as relaxed as they are now.

Another female with 2 cubs been seen around River Lodge and to the north of the lodge. Toward the end of the month her young male cub was not seen frequently and this may simply be due to the thick vegetation after the first rains.

A resident big tom leopard has been seen a couple of times and also one morning with one of the females with her two young cubs. We also had a couple of great sighting of two young males, one that spends his time in the North of the reserve and was also seen with one of the females, possibly mating. The other one regularly seen in the south of Kapama tends to be shyer.

Another female leopard was regularly seen in the middle of the reserve. Sightings were more challenging and photo opportunities not great at all times due to the thick vegetation and many gullies rather than any nervousness on her part.

A great way to end November and start December.

Mike Kirkman- Kapama Karula, Senior Ranger

Photos by- Andries Jamneck



Eland, Tragelaphus oryx, are the largest antelope species in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as here at Kapama. Our herd used to be quite large, but over time our lions have compressed the number down to just one lone female Eland. Our large male lion can consume at most round about 25 kg of meat at a sitting, and with a male Eland weighing up to 950-1000kg, that’s a nice long weekend’s worth of gorging for our lion pride.

Eland are cousins of Kudu, Bushbuck, and Nyala. All are in the Spiral Horned Antelope Family and all are what’s known as “Track-on-Track walkers,” meaning they put one foot down and then the next foot on the same spot to minimize the amount of noise they make in the bush. Both male and female Eland have horns, the males are short and thick and the females long and slender. Eland can jump over three meters in height and are built to survive in most climates from desert to Bushveld, to Lowveld, and mountains.

Female Eland are a tawny color, sometimes going into a light grey as they get older. They have a small flap of skin under their neck on their chest known as a Dewlap, where as male Eland are a grey  hue, turning almost black with age and have a large Dewlap. The purpose of the Dewlap is to help with thermoregulation in arid habitats. The females give birth around the same time as each other, “Flooding the market,” and will form a cresh as the young reach a few weeks old. After a month or two the young form a juvenile herd that follows the adult mixed male-female herd from feeding spot to feeding spot.

By: Noelle DiLorenzo – Kapama River Lodge Ranger