Fire is often used as a management tool to control bush encroachment and maintain species diversity.
Man induced fire has been a part of the African savannah for centuries and many of the plant species have adapted to it. But they haven’t adapted to the intense heat created by hundreds of Quelea nests blazing in their upper branches and in this case killing large parts of the upper tree.
Zebra are often the first to be found on a burnt area. The new flush of green growth is obviously a great attraction but the zebra usually arrive before the flush. There must be something else about fire that attracts them.
Today is my last day of fun. Been utter bliss. Tomorrow I drive 8 hours to Jackson Hole for the week for the wildlife film festival. But I’m still going to sneak in some kayaking at 6h30 before hitting the road.
29th September 2000
For the first time in a long time Tjololo wasn’t around where we’d left him. After much searching with tracks heading west and then east again we eventually picked him up moving north along the boundary with the Kruger National Park.
He tends to follow this boundary all the way north which is extremely frustrating as the road is just inside Kruger, with no road on the Mala Mala side. Also there is no physical barrier between the 2 areas. This doesn’t do us any psychological good to be bouncing around through the bush while only a meter away Tjololo is walking on a perfectly graded road.
Once Tjololo was back on Mala Mala he frustrated us further by spending the whole time walking in the bottom of any donga he could find. This is not unusual and is very typical leopard behaviour. Before midnight he did eventually venture out and work on hunting. On the burn he killed an adult male steenbok which he hurriedly treed with 3 hyaenas hot on his heels. He had an uncomfortable feed in the tree as it was rather scraggly and the hyaenas weren’t letting him move on to another tree with the carcass.
Having fed he had to move away from the tree as the hyaenas stayed lying there hoping eventually to get a scrap.
At dawn Tjololo finished off his carcass. 8 hours to finish the whole carcass, another amazing feat by Tjololo.
This young hippo bull probably died of his wounds from fighting with another bull. They are seriously territorial and with those huge teeth of theirs often inflict fatal wounds.
Hyaenas are one of the only predators that can make inroads through that inch thick hippo hide. And with a pack as large as this one they soon made short work of the carcass only leaving a few of the larger leg bones and very little meat for the many waiting vultures.
I had another great day in Colorado! Clay pigeon shooting, kayaking, Go-kart racing (actually more like Go-kart bashing) and a good long mountain bike ride.
And of course I love horses! Especially seeing them running free in a big herd like this is just so stunning.
28th September 2000
As we were approaching Tjololo where we’d left him, a herd of kudu must have almost run over him. He still seemed dazed when we found him, probably having had his sleep disturbed by them.
He was on the move before sunset heading straight south down the center of his territory following the road/track all the way. When he reached the river he started heading west.
Tjololo was suddenly surprised by a lioness following his trail, but he became aware of and saw her before she saw him. He ducked off down the river. Resting up he was again disturbed, this time by a hyaena.
When we found him again he was now heading east along the river, continuing all the way into Kruger where he must have rested around midnight after having been on he move for the last 7 hours. That’s a long time to keep walking. Something we don’t appreciate when we blame him for sleeping all the time.
Before dawn he called and was soon back on Mala Mala turf only to rest up again at sunrise.
Hyaenas have their cubs at any time of year and as they den communally it’s not uncommon to find cubs of different ages in a den. Of course with so many cubs around they’re all playmates. This den had 12 cubs under the age of 12 months which is great news. I’m hoping with the lion numbers being down on Malilangwe, that hyaenas numbers will pick up considerably and soon they’ll be challenging the lions. That’s always a huge party when it happens. Very vocal with both sides trying to out do each other vocally. Can’t wait!
I’ve had the most wonderful day in here in Colorado. Started off kayaking, which I so love. Then I took a 3 and a ½ hour walk up the mountain. The elk are all bugling at this time of year. Pretty cool stuff and I even got a shot of this bull bugling before they took off having seen me.
Getting back to base at sunset I then tried my hand at ice-skating which I haven’t tried since I was at school. That was blast even though I was falling all over the place. And the day was finished off playing around in a gym. Wow what a day!
27th September 2000
The Mala Mala rangers spent the day with Tjololo after we’d left. Apparently the female leopard in the area was the White Cloth female and not the Kapen female.
In the evening the White Cloth female went to feed on Tjololo’s carcass and was soon rebuffed by Tjololo who apparently gave her a good hiding. He’s definitely not one of those guys that likes sharing.
We picked up Tjololo in the Kapen river having finished off his kill and moved into the Sand river. On arriving in the river, as usual, he called. His call was challenged by his male neighbour to the west of the river. They spent the rest of the night resting in the river and occasionally shouting at each other.
Only just before dawn did Tjololo carry on south and we were able to pick him up. At least we had a good sleep.
He soon left the river heading east and bumped into the Kapen female and Mziggi. They all greeted tentatively with Tjololo seeming happy to see both of them and letting them approach and pat him on the face. This went on for about half an hour. Then Tjololo moved on east when the Kapen female and Mziggi headed north. Here he rested up in a donga.