The Great Encounter

Lion cubs – three that are around seven months old, and six that are now around two months old

Finding lions is an amazing and rewarding experience, especially when we find our newly extended pride of thirteen lions. My tracker Alfi and I decided to look for this pride so that the guests could see the cubs – three that are around seven months old, and six that are now around two months old.

We went to a dam where they had been spotted the day before. Unfortunately, they were not there. So we followed some tracks as far as we could. Eventually, we lost them in a block. We decided to check another nearby dam. As we came around the corner, there they were – all nine cubs playing and tackling each other.

A few days before, I had seen the three older cubs bullying one of the younger cubs. However, on this day, all six of the younger cubs were giving their older siblings a hard time. When there is just one it is easy for the older cubs to bully the younger ones but when all six are together, the roles are almost reversed.

Encounter between the lioness and the cubs

As we sat there enjoying this amazing sighting, we heard one of the adult females calling from a distance. Immediately, the cubs stop what they are doing to listen. As we turned our heads to the direction of the call, there she was looking at the cubs. She came down next to the water’s edge and all nine cubs ran up to her, rubbed up against her and greeted her with as much love as they could. The love soon changed into playing and jumping all over her.
This encounter between the lioness and all the cubs just shows us how family orientated these big cats are as well as why their bonds are so strong, which in turn contributes to their success in the wilderness. Their dependence and reliance on each other is one of the factors that make them so strong and majestic.

My guests and I will never forget this great encounter between these lions.

Kim Pretorius – Kapama River Lodge
22/08/2012

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An unpredictable day in Africa

One afternoon drive, we already had a great beginning with seeing two male Leopards having a territorial dispute. The older male Leopard ended up getting pushed out of his territory and the younger male won territory that he could finally call his own! A little while later we had found a pride of Lions, one male and two females lounging around like lions do!!! Finally we decided that this was too much action for one day and a drink was needed. We stopped at a waterhole, with the sun setting just behind it.

Young male Lion

Young male Lion

 

We had just served everyone with drinks and chatting about the day’s events, and all of a sudden my tracker Tully asked us to keep quiet! It was as if someone had switched the radio off, we were deadly silent! Not far from us we heard these strange snorting noises and Tully explained that this was very unhappy Impala’s. So we very quickly packed up to go find out what was
upsetting these Impala’s so much. Drove one block switched off the engine and listened, drove to the direction of the snorting and switched the engine off and listened. We found the Impala’s all facing the same direction and as we looked beyond them we saw this little white body lying on the ground. As we drove closer i could not believe my eyes, we had just witnessed Africa’s largest snake- the African Rock Python kill a young Impala.

Males can get up to 4.5metres and females 5metres and easily weigh 55kgs, that’s a lot of snake for some people to handle. Their diet is varied but they can consume small antelope, monkeys, fish, monitor lizards and even small crocodiles have been recorded. Today this Python had killed a young impala, and it was through the mothers distress calls that we had gotten this phenomenal sighting. African Rock Pythons seek prey with their heat sensors, ambush and then use strength rather than venom. As the animal exhales the snake constricts and with every breath until the prey is exhausted of oxygen. Once the prey stops breathing the Python then releases his grip and goes towards the head and starts to consume his hard earned prey. At this time the snake is at its most vulnerable to predators, so he swallows the prey surprisingly fast. Once the Python has devoured his prey he goes into hiding like a cavity of a tree or maybe an old Aardvark hole, so that the digestive juices can take over!

African Rock Python - Phot by Morah-Leigh Cooper

African Rock Python - Phot by Morah-Leigh Cooper

It just goes to show that the bush is extremely unpredictable, you never know what’s around the next corner and if you us all your senses you just might just get so much more…

Morah-Leigh Cooper-Ranger, Kapama Karula

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Lion vs Hippo

Whenever watching Animal planet, National geographic, Discovery or any wildlife program, there is always a sighting which really stands out above the rest and as a Ranger you’re hoping that someday you will be there to capture a similar unique moment with your camera…and today, it happened to me.

We left the lodge a bit earlier this morning to an area where the Lions were seen the previous evening, hoping to track them before they disappear into the thickets. Hiding, from the blazing African sun.

20 minutes into the drive, approaching the first waterhole, my tracker alerted me to a strange but violent sound, a call which neither of us is familiar with; a call from a young Hippo fighting for survival against a big Lioness.

We approached the area with caution and were amazed and shocked of this rare but unique moment… a single female Lion trying to overpower the brutal strength of this beast. Lions are opportunistic hunters and will overcome any animal of their size and even much larger prey when they are hunting as a pride, but are also alert of any canines or injury to themselves which will affect their hunting capabilities in the future.

The lion tried so hard to get to the vital parts of the Hippo but she failed to get him down. By this time the hippo was bleeding profusely but still he didn’t give up. After a few minutes of rough “fighting” the lion stood back just to “take a break”… I think at this time she realized that she couldn’t take down the hippo and then started calling for backup. There was no reply from any of her pride members and as harsh as the fight started as disappointingly it ended for the Lion. The hippo got away and the Lion moved on looking for easier prey.

She didn’t manage to kill the hippo, but she did leave a lot of painful scars on the thick skin of the young Hippo.

This was one of the moments I am glad that I had my camera…. Long live the Hippo

Story by: Joe Van Rensburg – Kapama River Lodge Ranger 

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The huntress

The first two weeks that I have worked at Kapama have been filled with some amazing sightings and experiences, ranging from Lion kills to Pangolins. One of the highlights was when we found our large male lion and female dozing lazily in the road close to River lodge; we stopped the game viewer and watched as the loins enjoyed the last rays of the afternoon sun. After about five minutes the female began to stir as she yawned displaying her massive canines that can range from 6 to 10 cm’s, we could see that she was focused on something about 50 meters away. Before we could see what she was looking at, she sprang into action and headed straight for a termite mound and in an explosion of dust; we soon realized what she had killed a juvenile warthog. She had just proved again that lions don’t need to limber up before attempting a chase. The irony of it all was when the male just walked over, took the warthog from her and devoured the entire thing without leaving her anything for her hard work; she just lay down and started grooming herself, accepting her role as the huntress.

Story By: Tuhan Steyn- Kapama River Lodge Ranger

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Lion Kills Honey Badger

This morning my guests and I had the most amazing sighting! It easily fits into my top three sightings, (just under a Leopard killing a Duiker in front of the vehicle and then Lions chasing the Leopard off and eating the Duiker themselves.) We were following two sub-adult Lions, a male and a female, and our largest adult Lioness as they wandered and sniffed and enjoyed the crisp morning.

The young female started getting very alert and then her brother as well. The older female watched them but did not move from her course. Then the young female ran and pounced. Her brother followed and we started to hear strangling noises. As we came around the bushes, the young male had a two year old Honey Badger cub in its jaws. The Honey Badger was struggling, growling, and hissing but the Lion’s grip was too firm. The young female Lion was trying to get her paws and jaws on the Honey Badger’s mother but she was unsuccessful and she quickly gave up.

Finally, after about 10-15 minutes the male started eating the Honey Badger, being careful to keep it from the other two Lions. Then an awful stench permeated towards the vehicle. The Lion had punctured the Honey Badger’s anal sac. At this, he stopped eating and left the remainder. The adult Lioness, knowing all to well what was going on, started wandering back into the bushes, with the other two following.

Honey Badgers are known to be one of the most ferocious animals in the African Bush. The youngsters, however, are not as adept as the adults at getting away using teeth, claws, and a staunch stubbornness. I’m still in awe of what we saw this morning! Another fantastic and one of kind sighting at Kapama!

By: Noelle DiLorenzo – River Lodge Ranger

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Mating Lions

An exciting morning occurred today for myself and my guests. After tracking some Elephants with a fellow ranger and having a great sighting we then proceeded to try and see if we could see some Lions before the guests had to check out. We responded to a sighting of our large male Lion and one female, (the mother of the two one and half year old male and female sub-adults), who were busy mating.

Lions mate for three to four days at a time. The actual mating occurs for about 45 seconds and they will repeat this every few minutes. The male Lion’s penis is barbed which makes for an uncomfortable process for the female but insures that the copulation is a success for him. Afterwards there is much growling, snarling, and possibly a slap or two in the male’s direction. All of this makes both male and female very grumpy and somewhat unpredictable. 

Our male was particularly surly this morning as we approached the sighting, growling and lunging at the vehicle. We gave him and the female a wide berth which allowed them to relax and give my guests fantastic viewing and photo ops. After awhile we decided to leave and as we did the male, in his grumpy mood, decided to show us who is really King of the Bush!

Great photos in hand, smiles on faces, and adrenaline going, my guests and I left the two honeymooners to themselves.

By: Noelle DiLorenzo – River Lodge Ranger

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