bettel

Cats and Dogs: the eternal story of life

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Posted (edited)

Day 1. Afternoon drive.

 

The trip to Kirkman’s kamp was long but uneventful and nothing could have stopped me from going to the bush as soon as possible. I was waiting for this for long 6 months. I did not expect to see a lot and the fact that I was on safari drive already made me absolutely happy.

 

My ranger in Kirkman was JP, and my tracker was Eckson.

 

After a short rhino walk (Eckson noticed sleeping rhinos from the road and we walked there to stretch legs. It was successful as rhinos never found out that we were there) we went to check if Charleston pride had crossed the river or they were still on the property. We found them on the beach near the crossing and they were absolutely flat. The maximum action that they were ready to show us was to raise a head and look around.

 

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JP was telling stories about the pride. This pride suffered a lot from fights with another pride. At the end only one lioness with two small cubs (her nephews) managed to survive. And this lioness did an awesome job. Both boys are now 4 years old and look great. She also taught them to hunt and this pride is famous for bringing down giraffes. The lioness herself is an amazing hunter, if I remember it correctly, during one year she brought down around 15 kudus without any help (and these are only animals that rangers know about).

 

The evening was slow, nobody else was willing to join us and we were having the pride all to ourselves. We were sitting in the car and discussing lions’ dreams. JP suggested to wait as lions might have decided to cross the river and these would be great shots…Everything changed in seconds.

 

Mala Mala ranger who was on another side of the river told us that he could see wild dogs moving in our direction. So we went closer to make some pictures

 

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This year dogs are denning on Kirkman’s property but they still like to cross Sand river for hunting.

 

Dogs were running along the river and did not see lions. However the lioness noticed them immediately and she turned into hunting mode immediately. Boys were not so enthusiastic. They were raising heads, watching dogs for a few seconds and then returning to a flat position.

 

Lions were behind bushes and dogs could not see them at all. And then even worse, dogs went down to the water and their sighting was blocked by the river band. Lioness did not lose a second.

 

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The river was a huge handicap for dogs as they could not move in water as fast as more powerful lions were able to.

 

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Alfa male did not have any chances:

 

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It is more than two weeks since that day but I can still hear how the dog was screaming. I am not one of people who dream to see a kill. I love to see predators but in a lot of cases I like to be blind and deaf. And although I started to think that I might tolerate without a hysteric a quick antelope kill this was far beyond my limits. So I was crying like a kid. To make the scene even harder the rest of the pack was staying not far and was calling from there. JP was very kind to ask a few times if I wanted to leave. My emotional part was ready to leave immediately but brains were saying that even if we had left nothing would have changed so I asked to stay and even continued to make pictures.

 

In split seconds a lioness was joined by males

 

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I was glad that the death seemed to be quite quick, but I was so wrong. As soon as lions started to pull the dog back to the beach, he started to scream again. I was ready to join him in this, only the fact that it was our first drive with JP and he might have decided that I was totally uncontrollable made me to sit silently, I just started to sob more.

 

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After another few minutes when lions calmed down and were just resting near the dog I noticed that the dog was blinking. I asked JP if dog was still alive, he answered that dog was dead and these were just eyeballs moving when lions were touching the body. Couple minutes later dog screamed again. Thanks God, more cars arrived to see a sighting and we left.

 

When we were starting the drive early afternoon I told JP that I did not like sundowners and I did not want to spend time on them but after this sighting I changed my mind completely. I asked JP to stop and to give me something really strong. So the rest of the evening I spent with brandy.

 

And these are photos made by Roan Ravenhill (Mala Mala ranger) he was watching the scene from another bank. So he made photos of us watching the sighting:

 

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I learned my lesson. When I was asking the bush to show me cats, dogs and maybe a kill, I should have been more specific and I should have stressed that I did not want it all to be one sighting.

 

We were discussing a lot after this if we should have tried to do something, and decided that it could have turned into even worse situation and it would have been very hard to live with it.

 

Edited by bettel
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What an amazing but awful sighting. Luckily this is one in a lifetime stuff....Be careful what you wish for!

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An extraordinary sighting, but a terrible one. Really something I have no wish of ever experiencing myself. :(

 

@@bettel

 

I really hope you were able to get over this quickly and enjoy your safari after this. Looking forward to your report very much. :)

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This is quite a stunning sighting. Well described and backed up with high quality photos, this is probably one of the more hard-hitting reports on here.
Very unique sighting too. intraguild predation happens often but isn't very often witnessed first hand. A question if it's then something you want to see. Even for veteran rangers and zoologists I don't imagine it getting easier with time.

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@@bettel - that is one of the most dramatic photo sequences I've seen posted on ST, in fact, anywhere. Well done for staying with it and capturing the detail. I can imagine it was a difficult sighting to witness and perhaps haunting. Thank you for sharing it with us all here.

 

Matt.

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I guess you just never know what you will see. As a fan of all predators, this is hard to look at, but it is the wild after all. Amazing experience.

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I really hope you were able to get over this quickly and enjoy your safari after this. Looking forward to your report very much. :)

It did not take too much time. The next morning we witnessed dogs stealing a kill from a female leopard and her cub and it really helped. We could see that the pack continued to live its normal life.

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Posted (edited)

Day 2. Morning.

 

The morning started with JP knocking my door. I warned him in advance that he had to knock really hard (better use his foot) or I would just continue to sleep. I have two playful kittens so I can sleep even when 10 extremely energetic kilograms jumping on me. So it worked: after the second attempt I actually managed to crawl out of my bed and started to open my eyes.

 

At 5:45 I was at the coffee station drinking the magic liquid that turns “Leave me alone or die” into “Good morning, darling”. At 6 we left the lodge.

 

We started the drive with Rollercoaster female leopard and her sub adult cub. The cub is 19 month old and for me it was pretty hard to say who was who. The only noticeable difference was the wound that Rollercoaster got a few days before fighting a young male leopard that came to the property.

 

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Following the leopard family I found a new meaning for the “off-road driving” phrase. JP managed to drive through some places that I would have questioned even for walking. The main highlight was driving a pretty deep drainage gulley down and up. I was thinking that we would definitely be stuck there, but we did not. However, we lost leopards. So we had to drive the drainage gulley back (it was very cool!). As soon as we got to another side we could hear dogs calling so we realized that Rollercoaster probably made a kill and was leading her daughter there. But dogs found the kill and ate it so when leopards came, dogs chased them away.

 

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A few moments later JP found that we actually approached the dog’s den from another side. The den was closed at that moment so he quickly explained this to guests in another vehicle and we all left the sighting.

 

After leopards we went to visit lions. This time it was Skukuza pride. This pride has couple lionesses, one sub adult male and couple 4 month old cubs. Cubs did not look healthy. In fact they looked as if they had rickets. My suggestion is that because their mom is an old lioness (around 14 years old) and almost all old people and mammals have problems with calcium metabolism so her milk might contain less calcium than it should. I hope when they start to eat more bones it will fix. One of Sand River males joined the pride and even showed some parental feelings:

 

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One of the lionesses were grooming her cub, he was not happy about it and ran away quickly:

 

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After we left lions we found tracks of the Scotia’s daughter and followed them. Soon we found another car. A driver got his hand out of the vehicle and pointed something on the tree. We checked and she was there:

 

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Only leopard can lie on a tree and look comfortable:

 

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After a while Scotia’s daughter climbed the tree down:

 

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We followed her little bit and left her when she decided to rest.

Edited by bettel
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An extraordinary sighting, but a terrible one. Really something I have no wish of ever experiencing myself. :(

 

This sums up my feelings as well. This must have been terribly hard to witness.

I am glad you were able to see the dogs in more "upbeat" circumstances afterwards.

 

Beautiful photos in your next post there, as well!

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I saw JP's photos (and Roan from MalaMala) and was flabberghasted.

I'm glad you stuck it out despite the straining emotions...

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wow what a fantastic lot of sightings .we were in sabi sands 2 weeks ago when the Charlestown prides decided to come to the beach and sun bath for a whole day we couldn't get that close to them though .the painted dogs had been running around everywhere but we never got to see them .love the photos .

julie

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Extraordinary sighting and I applaud your courage as it would have been hard to witness in person. That you managed to produce such excellent photos says a lot about your strength of character. Well done.

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Posted (edited)

Day 2. Afternoon drive.

 

According to the original plan we left the lodge at 2 p.m. It was too hot to go for cats so we started with searching for elephants. We found a breeding herd pretty quickly, elephants were browsing around and eating. One of my favourite things: there was a small calf. You could barely see him (or her) in a tall grass:

 

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We were sitting with elephants for quite a while watching how this guy was trying to master his trunk skills (he still has a lot of space for improvement)

 

After elephants we went to mating lions and on our way we found another cute guy:

 

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And this micro rhino turned my scale of values :). Before I met him (or her) I was thinking that two most beautiful sounds in the bush are elephant’s growl and lion’s roar. But the sound of this small rhino asking for milk was just unbeatable. I fell in love. I could have been hearing it for years :)

But at the end we actually managed to continue our way to lions. When we came lovers were totally flat. They played dead bodies and even did not lift their heads to check who came.

 

After 15 minutes the lioness started to move little bit and the male lion immediate started to react “Now? I am ready!” After a few minutes the lioness decided that it was actually time:

 

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“Life is good”

 

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«Now?»

 

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After the second act they actually surprised us as they started to roar (although the lioness even did not move her head from the ground). It was pretty brave for the male lion as he was actually mating the lioness behind his dominant brother’s back.

 

After the performance they died again. This time lioness did not give any signs for 25 minutes so at the end the male lion decided that he had to be proactive.

 

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And then they roared again. I still can’t decide what I like more rhino’s cheep or lion’s roar :)

 

Edited by bettel
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wow @@bettel you had one hell of a safari.

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Posted (edited)

Day 3. Morning.

 

The first thing we found was a male leopard track. The dominant male in the area is Xovonekela, friends can call him Xovo :). The only time I saw a male leopard before was in Botswana when the leopard was injured by lions and was sitting high on the tree and it was pretty dark. So I really wanted to see Xovo. While JP and Eckson were discussing the searching strategy, I was doing my part… I was sitting in the car and was begging the bush “Please! Please! Please! Show me Xovo!”. The bush was silent but I was hoping for the best.

 

At some point tracks turned into thick bush and Eckson suggested to check the river bank as Xovonekela liked to be there. And, oh miracle, we found him!

 

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So we joined Xovo in his territory patrolling. This was magical: grey early morning, light fog on the grass and huge leopard that was moving silently.

 

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JP asked me “Have you ever heard how a leopard roars?”. I could not even imagine that leopards roar so I was immediately on the hook. So I started to beg Xovonekela “Please, please, please!» (don't laugh, this tactics really works, knock on wood). He was very cooperative and roared couple times for us. It became even more magical: grey early morning, light fog on the grass, huge leopard that was moving silently and low deep roar that was almost floating in the air.

 

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“I bet, he is walking towards the swimming pool!” JP said. My imagination immediately drew the picture: you are swimming in the pool all relaxed (I know it was cold and early, but for imagination it did not matter :) ) and here is a leopard. I bet, it is unforgettable experience!

 

But Xovo stopped to drink from a small waterhole:

 

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It was beautiful, but a swimming pool would have been funnier. After drinking Xovo did not go through the lodge itself, he walked through the staff zone (I am not sure, we left him earlier). JP warned the lodge in advance by radio.

 

After Xovo we went to visit Scotia and her daughter (and Xovo’s daughter). When we arrived the cub was pretending that she was a squirrel and was jumping between branches:

 

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But it was not interesting enough and she started to stalk her mother. It was extremely funny because the cub was thinking that she was a master, but her mom was easily following daughter’s each step. Scotia was also in good mood and both leopards had a great play session:

 

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Small break to rest and to drink:

 

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And the second part, aerobatics:

 

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When leopards got tired and decided to sleep we went to lions. Lions caught an impala but the male lion got it all to himself, everybody else did not receive a single piece:

 

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And this photo was made after the drive, I had a visitor:

 

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Edited by bettel
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Terrific sightings...I saw the first post and had to switch off; highly admirable of you to photo it for all here...much stronger than I'd ever be in that situation. From then on, amazing cats!! Just love watching them stalk and play!

 

I've never heard a peep out of a leopard. Lucky you.

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What gorgeous leopard photos, and a very interesting adventure! We heard and saw a leopard growl at baboons that had tried her last year, but so excited that we have pictures of the tree trunk the leopard came down,with a fuzzy leopard shaped blur!. Looking forward to the next bit.

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I particularly like your acrobat leopards.

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I too love the leopards, but all your sightings have been wonderful.

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What gorgeous leopard photos, and a very interesting adventure! We heard and saw a leopard growl at baboons that had tried her last year, but so excited that we have pictures of the tree trunk the leopard came down,with a fuzzy leopard shaped blur!. Looking forward to the next bit.

 

Sounds like a cool sighting!

 

Just in case, I was not talking about growling. The same as lions, leopards have a territorial call (roar).

 

Here is the video I found on youtube, it shows the process :)

 

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Thanks for that.....I'd call everything growling; even the way I speak to Greenlantern -_- ...."stop growling at me dammit"

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for that.....I'd call everything growling; even the way I speak to Greenlantern -_- ...."stop growling at me dammit"

 

I think your situation is better than mine :). I like to train animals so I already have a reflex to say "Good boy!" every time when I get a good behavior. Sometimes I catch myself on trying to say this to my employees, my family and even my car :).

 

 

 

Day 3. Afternoon.

 

This was a perfect drive as we saw the big five (I am joking :))

 

We started the drive with checking on Scotia and the cub. Scotia was not there at all and the cub was eating something in very tall grass. We were able to see her for couple minutes when she sat to check who came and we could only hear her crunching bones after she returned to her lunch, so we continued our way.

 

JP suggested to check a small dry sand river where it was nice and cool because of thick trees. I was not only us who appreciated this on a hot day, couple hyenas were sleeping there:

 

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After spending some time with hyenas we continued to look for elephants. But first we found a drinking giraffes. I think it is one of my favourite sightings. I can watch it forever.

 

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And then there was one of the most memorable moments. Normally giraffes are pretty shy with cars. They prefer to stay at least 10-15 meters away. But this one was not like this at all. We were on her way, so she came straight at us (not aggressively, just making her way), so at some point she was just couple meter away from us. Amazing feeling! Then she stopped, took a look at us and made her way. She was so gorgeous that I forgot how to breath :)

 

We returned to our “find elephants” mission. Our first victims were a couple young bachelors across the river (they were joined by couple old buffalo bachelors):

 

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We stayed with them for some time hoping that they might decide to cross the river but they did not have any slightest intention to do it.

 

JP told a story about young bulls relocation that was done by one of the parks in South Africa. At the beginning they relocated only young bulls and soon they had a pretty bad situation as those young bulls were absolutely out of control. They were extremely aggressive, they were killing each other and even more they were killing rhinos. So park authorities brought a few old bulls to the area and everything stopped as old bulls explained young bulls how they should behave :). This example shows that good education is important not only for people :).

 

As soon as we left sub adult bulls we found a breeding herd of elephants but unfortunately they were in pretty thick bush so no photos. But I made some photos of rhinos who we met after. Those were two sub adult females:

 

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One of them looked as if she wanted to roll in mud and we were ready to enjoy the sighting but she changed her mind. Sometimes wild animals are very not cooperative :).

 

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I asked JP if we could go and check lions and originally he answered that after dark they don’t use flashlights on a lion pride with cubs that are younger than 6 months. But another ranger had guests who wanted to see lions even without any additional light. When they checked they found out that the pride left cubs somewhere behind and went hunting so we were able to join. Frankly speaking, we even did not need too much light as the moon was full and it was extremely bright. It was good and it was bad: not only us could see lions but all antelopes as well. So we watched a few not successful attempts (no lights when lions were hunting so that no interruption). After the third one lions decided to rest and, probably, to rethink approach and we went back to lodge.

 

Edited by bettel
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Ta for the video, we have been lucky enough to hear and see leopards roaring, this was definitely growling.It impressed us and the baboons! Looking forward to your next installment!

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Posted (edited)

Day 4. Morning.

 

We decided to go for dogs as I wanted them badly. Especially taking into account that we knew that dogs were very close. But as the den was not opened yet we started with checking the whole block to find out if dogs had left the den or not. There were no fresh tracks. We did another circle hoping that maybe they would go hunting later, but there were still no tracks. I guess you can’t have everything :).

 

But we found a rhino family: a female with a calf and a male that joined them.

 

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At this point we (should be read as “I”) got used to the idea that no dogs on this drive so we went to take a look at Xovo. He was patrolling his territory. He definitely had more motivation that I would have had if I were him as he had a really full belly.

 

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And not only patrolling but he actually was trying to hunt, when he saw an impala male:

 

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But the wind was not in his favour and the impala could smell him and ran away.

 

Xovo did not look too disappointed:

 

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It was also extremely interesting to watch Xovo when he met people on foot. Xovo absolutely did not pay any attention to two huge vehicles that were following him through the bush, but as soon as he saw a road repair car with couple people standing near it, the leopard turned into very shy creature (he actually looked scared). He fell on a ground and almost crawled away. And only when he decided that the distance was OK, he turned into normal patrolling mode:

 

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We stayed with him till he decided that it was time to have some nap and went under pretty thick bush.

 

As soon as I got to my room after the drive I received the call from JP: although nobody had seen pups yet the decision was made to open the den (some limiting rules applied) as pups were old enough to start leaving it any moment. Yeah!!!

Edited by bettel
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JP told a story about young bulls relocation that was done by one of the parks in South Africa. At the beginning they relocated only young bulls and soon they had a pretty bad situation as those young bulls were absolutely out of control. They were extremely aggressive, they were killing each other and even more they were killing rhinos. So park authorities brought a few old bulls to the area and everything stopped as old bulls explained young bulls how they should behave :). This example shows that good education is important not only for people :).

 

I don't know if it's the same incident, but I think I saw a documentary about this maybe five years ago. It was presented in a mysterious/sensational "why are these elephants killing rhinos" style.

 

Enjoying your updates.

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